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Raising the Participation Age (RPA)

What is RPA?

The Government has changed the law so that all young people will be required to continue in education or training:

  • Until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17 from summer 2013; and
  • Until their 18th birthday from summer 2015.

The information here will help you to understand what this means for you. If your child is currently in Year 11 or below, they will be affected.  When the participation age increases, young people will need to continue to study or train in one of several ways:

  • Study full-time in a school, college or with a training provider.
  • Full-time work or volunteering combined with part-time education or training.
  • An Apprenticeship (

Why are you changing things?

We want to give all young people the opportunity to develop skills and qualifications that will open doors to future employment, help them make the most of their potential, and earn more over their lifetime.  Evidence shows that achieving qualifications at this age can help to boost a young person’s prospects for life – for instance, young people with 2 or more A-Levels earn around 14% more than those without. 

What does this mean for me?

The legal requirement to participate will be on your son or daughter. This is because we know that, at 16, young people are starting to make – and take responsibility for – the decisions that affect their future. The Government is investing more than ever to provide fully-funded education and training places for all 16-19 year olds who want to take them.  We know that you will be providing support and guidance to your child as they make these important decisions about their future, but there are also other sources of help.Schools are responsible for making sure all pupils in school years 9-11 have access to independent careers guidance.  This careers guidance must:

  • Be presented in an impartial manner.
  • Include information on the full range of post-16 education or training options, including Apprenticeships.
  • Promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given.

The National Careers Service website makes it easy for both adults and young people to access information and advice about education, training and work. The website is at: people and their parents can speak to an appropriately qualified adviser by contacting the helpline which is available from 8.00am to 10pm, seven days a week on 0800 100 900, or for text messages on 07766 413 219.  Your local authority is also responsible for finding suitable education and training places for all 16 and 17 year olds through the September Guarantee and you can contact them directly for more information.  You can find contact details for your local authority through the website here; 

What happens if my child doesn’t participate?

Leaving education early with few or no qualifications can severely limit a young person’s choices later in life. There is a wealth of evidence which shows how staying in education longer can benefit your child. Not only are they more likely to get a job and earn more over their lifetimes, they are less likely to suffer from a range of health and social problems as well.  Your local authority is responsible for tracking 16-17 year olds who are not participating and will take steps to try and ensure that everyone is enrolled in a suitable education or training place.  


1. Greenwood, C. Jenkins, A. and Vignoles, A (2007): The Returns to Qualifications in England: Updating the Evidence Base on Level 2 and Level 3 Vocational Qualifications; Institute of Education  2. Feinstein, L. Budge, D. Vorhaus, J and Duckworth, K. (2008):The social and personal benefits and of learning: A summary of key research findings; Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning  

Is financial support available for my child?

The Government has committed to fully-funding education and training places for all 16-19 year olds, and there is also financial help available for young people who are struggling with additional costs.  The 16–19 Bursary Fund can provide up to £1,200 a year to young people from poorer backgrounds. Under the scheme, schools and colleges can also offer bursaries to any young person who is finding it difficult to pay costs like transport, meals or books and equipment. You can find more information here:  

Are young people with special educational needs exempt from RPA duties?

The duty to participate applies to all young people, and there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that young people can benefit from staying in education or training beyond the age of 16. In September 2012 the Government published proposals to improve the support provided to children and young people with SEN, and to their parents. These proposals are being debated as part of new children and families legislation.

Will the SEN sector be ready for RPA – will there be enough places and funding for support?

We have taken into account the costs of more young people accessing education and training as a result of RPA, and we know that this will include young people with special educational needs. We believe that there is sufficient money within the system to allow them to participate – for instance, we are investing a record £7.5 billion in 2012-13 to fund places in education and training for 16-18 year olds. Under proposed reforms to SEN support, parents and young people will also be entitled for the first time to have a personal budget, extending their choice and control over the support they receive. 

Where can I find out more?

More information on RPA is available here:

  • More information on the SEN reform proposals can be found here:
  • More information on the September Guarantee is available here:
  • The National Careers Service website can be found here:
  • You can also speak to a qualified adviser from 8.00am to 10pm, seven days a week on  
  • 0800 100 900, or for text messages on 07766 413 219. 
  • More information is available at: