Participation falls in capital

September 3, 2004

The Government was forced to defend its record on widening participation this week after figures revealed that the number of teenagers from London participating in higher education fell last year, writes Paul Hill.

The Government's figures show that the number of school-leavers entering higher education dipped slightly from 23.9 per cent in 2002 to 23.6 per cent last year across Greater London.

The figures - which show marked variations in different London boroughs - prompted the Liberal Democrats to call for the Government to encourage more young people to consider training and apprenticeships rather than higher education.

The participation rate rose in 12 boroughs between 2002 and 2003, including rises of about 2 per cent in Greenwich, Hackney, Lewisham and Southwark.

But the proportion of school-leavers entering higher education fell in 19 boroughs, dropping 4 per cent in Brent and more than 2 per cent in Kensington and Chelsea.

Between 1996 and 2003, in Barking the proportion has doubled from 6.1 per cent to 12.9 per cent and rose from 9.5 per cent to 15 per cent in Islington.

Over the same period, however, the participation rate in Kensington and Chelsea declined 8 percentage points, in Camden 4.3 points and in Richmond upon Thames 1.5 points.

Overall, school-leaver participation across all boroughs rose from 19.6 per cent to 23.6 per cent between 1996 and 2003.

The figures were revealed in the ministerial answer to a Parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes. He said that the Government should be "less obsessed" with pushing school-leavers towards university.

He said: "We should perhaps be less obsessed about so many people going straight to university and realising that apprenticeships, training or work may be better career options for many of London's teenagers."

But a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Over a longer term dating back to 1997 the percentage of London students going to university has increased by 16 per cent from 20.3 per cent to 23.6 per cent."

Percentage of 18 year olds accepted for entry to HE through UCAS

LEA

1996

2002

2003

Barking

6.1

13.6

12.9

Barnet

30.1

32.3

30.4

Bexley

18.3

20.3

19.8

Brent

23.2

34.2

29.9

Bromley

26.5

33

29.3

Camden

24.5

20.3

20.2

City of London *

-

 -

 -

Croydon

23.2

24.8

25.3

Ealing

21.8

29.4

.7

Enfield

23.5

30.9

30.2

Greenwich

13

14.3

16.4

Hackney

8.1

12.2

12.9

Hammersmith and Fulham

21.4

19.6

21

Haringey

15.9

20.4

21.7

Harrow

32.3

39.4

41.5

Havering

16.5

15.5

16.8

Hillingdon

19.8

25.3

Hounslow

21.5

.4

.2

Islington

9.5

16.1

15

Kensington and Chelsea

26

19.9

17.5

Kingston Upon Thames

.5

32.6

30

Lambeth

12.8

17

16.3

Lewisham

14.5

16.7

18.6

Merton

23.6

26.4

25

Newham

11.6

19.2

20.1

Redbridge

25.8

34.9

34.7

Richmond Upon Thames

31.8

30.3

30.7

Southwark

10.3

15.7

18.3

Sutton

24.7

30.6

29.4

Tower Hamlets

10.6

14.6

14.8

Waltham Forest

14.4

21.6

22.8

Wandsworth

15.7

23.6

23.4

Westminster

13.9

17

14.5

Total Greater London

19.6

23.9

23.6

* The effect of year-on-year fluctuations on a small population mean this method of calculating participation rates is unreliable for the City of London.

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