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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/10/2020 - 22:37

On this page
  1. National strategy
  2. Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
  3. Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
  4. Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

National strategy

There is no stand alone strategy for preventing early leaving of education and training in England. More so, numerous policies and strategies exist to engage young people in education, training or the labour market. Many of these are discussed in detail in the section ‘Employment and Entrepreneurship’

The term early leaving from education or training (ELET) is not commonly used in the UK context.  Instead, the term ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) is used. Local authorities have a duty to identify young people not participating so that they can get the support they need. In the Participation Statutory Guidance it states 

 Local authorities are expected to act on any information they receive about a young person who has dropped out; contacting them at the earliest opportunity and supporting them to find an alternative place in education, training or employment with training that leads to relevant regulated qualifications.

The vision for technical education, published as the Post-16 Skills Plan in July 2016, is based on the report of an independent panel on technical education. The skills plan contains the following commitment regarding those not in education, employment or training (NEET – see ‘Main Concepts’):

We will continue to provide support to those young people still not in education, employment or training, including prioritising free or subsidised training for 19–24 year-olds with low-level skills through our adult funding arrangements (p. 31).

For further information on the Post-16 Skills Plan, see 3.3 ‘Skills Forecasting’

The Department for Education’s strategy for 2015 to 2020, published in March 2016, World-class Education and Care includes as a priority to ‘transform the 16-19 skills system so young people can access high-quality technical and professional education, leading to continued education, training, or skilled employment at 19.’

In September 2019, an open consultation aimed at anyone with an interest in technical education and training for young people and adults in England took place for 12 weeks, as well as 6 consultation events led by DfE. These consultations built on the DfE’s commitments in the Post-16 Skills Plan which responded to the recommendations in the Sainsbury Report. Analysis of the consultation responses informed policy development by DfE outlined in 2020: 

  • improve the quality of higher technical education on offer
  • encourage more people to take higher technical education courses and get high-skilled work
  • introduce a national approval scheme, to show which higher technical qualifications meet employers’ skills needs

To support reforms to technical education, the government announced £1.5 billion to upgrade the existing further education (FE) estate in England as announced in the 2020 budget; up to £290m for Institutes of Technology; £2.5 billion for a national skills fund to help adults and employers access training as announced in the 2020 budget.

The Government’s 2015  English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision strategy sets out plans for raising the quality of apprenticeships and achieving three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. A progress report on the Apprenticeships Reform programme in April 2019 states the government has reached 57% of its target of 3 million new apprenticeships between 2015 and 2020. New employer-led apprenticeship standards have replaced the existing frameworks. Reformed apprenticeships provide substantive training in a professional or technical route, whilst also offering transferable skills and competency in English and maths for all ages.

As a response to COVID-19, the government announced a series of cash incentives for any firm that hires a new apprentice in the Summer Statement 2020. For six months from August 2020, the Government will pay bonuses to companies for hiring new apprentices at a rate of £2,000 for an apprentice under 25, and £1,500 for an apprentice over 25. Apprentices between 16-18 years old already benefit from a £1,000 bonus, so the total available support for these apprentices will be £3,000. Firms will also pay no employers' National Insurance contributions on apprentices under the age of 25.


Formal education: main policy measures on ELET

Financial support mechanisms

The UK Government targets financial support at certain disadvantaged groups to make it easier for them to remain in education.

Since 2017, all working parents of three- and four-year-olds are provided with 30 free hours of childcare per week. This is an early intervention measure that recognises that low attainment is associated with early school leaving and that low attainment can begin early in a child’s education. 

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund is funding which the Government provides to local authorities, schools, colleges and other education and training providers for students who need financial help to stay in education. To qualify, students must:

  • be at least 16 and under 19 on 31 August of the relevant year
  • study at a publicly funded school or college (not a university), or be on a training course, including unpaid work experience.
  • meet residency requirements.

There are two types of bursary: the vulnerable student bursary and the discretionary bursary. Students who may qualify for the vulnerable student bursary include students who are:

  • in care
  • care leavers
  • in receipt of Income Support, or Universal Credit in place of Income Support, in their own right
  • in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit and Disability Living or Personal Independence Payments in their own right.

The discretionary bursary is for disadvantaged students who do not meet the vulnerable student bursary criteria, but who need help to stay on in education or training. Support may be provided, for example, towards the cost of transport, meals, books and equipment. Schools and colleges set their own criteria for the discretionary bursary. They look at individual circumstances, which will generally include family income.


  • Other support schemes include:Care to Learn (C2L). C2L helps young parents under the age of 20 to continue in, and return to education after the birth of a child. It does this by providing funding for childcare whilst the young parent is studying. The young parent’s study programme must have some public funding and the childcare must be registered provision.
  • Free school meals. Children whose parents, carers or guardians receive certain state benefits are entitled to free school meals during compulsory schooling and post-16 education in schools and since September 2014 in further education institutions. Further information on free school meals is available from the government information website, GOV.UK. See also the Department for Education’s advice to further education institutions on the requirement to provide disadvantaged students aged 16 to 18 with free meals. In July 2020, the government extended the free school meals initiative for the summer holidays as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, called the COVID Summer Food Fund. 
  • Learners aged 19 and over who are on a further education course and facing financial hardship, may be eligible for Discretionary Learner Support (DLS). The money can help pay for things like accommodation and travel, course materials and equipment or childcare. The amounts provided and means of payment depend on the scheme the learning provider has in place.

Careers education, information, advice and guidance

The Government-supported Careers & Enterprise Company was set up in 2015 to improve careers education and advice for young people and inspire them about the opportunities offered by the world of work in an effort to engage young people and prevent early school-leavers. The company coordinates an Enterprise Adviser Network of business volunteers. Each volunteer supports a local school or college to develop an employer engagement plan that gives young people opportunities to meet and be advised by employers.

The Careers & Enterprise Company also coordinates a national mentoring campaign, announced by the Government in 2016, among schools and colleges, employers, mentoring organisations and young people. A mentoring fund was launched in June 2016, through which the company aims to provide mentor support to almost 20,000 students across the country, The Mentoring Fund and Mentoring Extension Fund support Year 8-10 students at risk of disengaging from education by scaling up proven mentoring organisations. Funding delivery is confirmed until August 2020.

The company also manages the Careers & Enterprise Fund which is in place to increase the number of encounters that young people, aged 11-18, have with employers while in education through careers and enterprise activities. The fund is made up of £4 million of Government-backed investment, with the addition of more than £1 million from other sources. Part of the funding is targeted to geographic ‘Opportunity Areas’ identified by the Government using the Social Mobility Index. These areas are disadvantaged by barriers that make it harder for young people to realise their employment potential. Funding delivery is confirmed until August 2020. 

This policy was informed by research showing that increasing the number of encounters that young people have with employers while in education can reduce their chances of becoming NEET.

Jobcentre Plus is a government-funded employment agency and social security office. As part of the Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools initiative, Jobcentre Plus staff help those students at risk of becoming NEET (not in employment, education or training) or otherwise disadvantaged in the labour market.

Transition to the labour market

The 'Youth Obligation' , means that young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) will participate in an intensive regime of support from the first day of their Universal Credit benefit claim, and after six months they will be expected to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a mandatory work placement to give them the skills they need to move into sustainable employment.

See the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market' for details of the Youth Obligation and implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

Vocational education and training

The Government’s overhaul of technical education is set out in its Post-16 Skills Plan. This entails the replacement of the thousands of courses which currently exist with 15 routes into skilled employment. Each route, such as health and science, construction, social care, or engineering and manufacturing, is delivered either through a two-year, college-based programme including a work placement, or through an apprenticeship. The programmes are suitable for 16–18 year-olds, but also accessible by adults (students aged 19 and over). Each programme is closely aligned to the apprenticeships at the start of each route and it will be possible to move from one to the other.

See ‘3.3 Skills Forecasting’ for more information. 

See the article 'Official guidelines on traineeships and apprenticeships’ in the ‘Employment and Entrepreneurship’ chapter.

Incentives for providers

The apprenticeship levy came into effect in 2017.  The policy aims to provide more support for younger apprentices and disadvantaged people and greater flexibility for employers. As part of the government’s Plan For Jobs COVID-19 response, an incentive payment will be made to employers who hire an apprentice between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021. This was announced along with other changes to the apprenticeship levy in July 2020, and came into effect from 1 August 2020. Other changes include the number of ‘active’ or ‘used’ reservations available to non-levy paying employers at any given time increasing from 3 to 10. This enables non-levy paying employers to recruit more apprentices for their businesses through the apprenticeship service.

You can read more about these changes to apprenticeship funding in England here.  

The funding formula used by the Education and Skills Funding Agency for 16-19 year-olds was also updated in August 2020. You can read more about this here


Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work

Statutory guidance issued to local authorities to improve the well-being of young people, include youth work and activities that ‘help those young people at risk of dropping out of learning or not achieving their full potential to engage and attain in education or training’. The extent to which this is done and the way in which it is done are down to local priorities and decision making.

Further information: Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe: Strategies, Policies and Measures 


Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

Statutory guidance for local authorities makes several references to partnership working/cross sector coordination. For example, local authorities can seek to work with institutions in their area to coordinate and implement the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. 

The guidance advises that local authorities should provide strategic leadership in their areas to support participation in education, training and employment - working with and influencing partners by:

  • ensuring a focus on participation is embedded and communicated throughout the authority’s services for children and young people
  • ensuring the services for young people in the local area come together to meet the needs of young people – including funding for education and training places and re-engagement provision
  • agreeing ways of working with other partners such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Jobcentre Plus, employers, voluntary and community sector organisations, health services (including mental health services), youth offending teams, the police, and probation services; and
  • working with neighbouring authorities, especially where young people routinely travel out of the area to access education and training, for work or other services (pp 7-8).

The Department for Education monitors the performance of local authorities in delivering their duties, and specifically in their tracking and supporting of 16- and 17-year-olds, using data collected by local authorities and submitted to the National Client Caseload Information System (NCCIS). NCCIS includes data showing the numbers of young people participating in education or training, those who are not participating, those who are NEET or those whose current activity is not known.

See the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market' for the UK’s position on the Youth Guarantee.