Fiona Blacke, chief executive of The National Youth Agency (NYA), said marginalised young people will fall off the radar if the government plan goes ahead, and called for a non-formal form of education for 14- to19-year-olds based around youth work.
Speaking as the Education and Skills Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday (14 January), Blacke said the government's plans to make young people stay in education or training until 18 would cause problems.
"When the raising of participation age comes into force we will probably see a number of young people, who are already marginalised, disappear," she said. "If they don't disappear, the intention from government is that there will be sanctions for people that don't participate. If they don't obey it and don't pay the fines they will end up in the criminal justice system. I don't think the government wants that and neither do we."
Blacke said The NYA wanted a non-formal education strand for 14- to19-years-olds, to capitalise on the success of youth work. Young people would be able to proactively opt in to it and it would be tailored to the needs of the individual.
Blacke said the current bill would not meet the needs of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). "These are often people with complex needs," she said. "We need a non-formal complementary offer for those young people that don't fit into the strands. Otherwise I don't think local authorities or government will be in a position to make an offer that will meet the needs of the young people they need to serve."
Susie Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Principal Youth and Community Officers, said the bill needed to focus on what youth work could bring to education. "The skills youth work offers to young people are still seen as nice add-ons rather than essential work that helps them into adult life," she said.