Boosting the boys 1

July 22, 2005

The Higher Education Policy Institute report assumes that the Government will fail in its ambition of 50 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds participating in higher education ("Boys jeopardise Blair's target", July 15). What it doesn't do is evaluate the policies and investment we have put in place to try to achieve it.

The issue of working-class boys is an important one and I am keen to deal with it specifically. Independent research has shown that for the first year of the Educational Maintenance Allowance pilot, participation beyond the age of 16 increased by 6 per cent. The biggest impact was among working-class boys. I acknowledge that a challenge remains in engaging boys beyond 16, but it is an encouraging start.

I dispute what the report says about A-level numbers. We know that the best indicator of future A-level numbers is GCSE success, which continues to improve. We must also recognise the need to expand vocational routes to higher education, which is why our 14-to-19 agenda of increasing the parity of esteem for vocational qualifications is so important.

Our aspiration to move towards 50 per cent participation in higher education is important. It is realistic and we are making progress. The new student financial support system from 2006 will help.

The UK needs to increase the proportion of young people accessing higher education and I can assure your readers that this Government is working hard to achieve this.

Bill Rammell MP

Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education

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