A leap in the number of Bradford teenagers kept from “a life on the scrapheap” was hailed by ministers yesterday.
The proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds in education or training rose from 90.1 per cent to 92.8 per cent over the 12 months to December 2013 – an increase of 2.7 per cent.
It means Bradford has a better participation rate than the average across England, which stands at 89.8 per cent, the figures show.
Calderdale (up 3.3 per cent) and Kirklees (up 3.2 per cent) also recorded significant increases, although the figure in Leeds (up 0.1 per cent) was virtually unchanged.
But the statistics sparked a race to claim credit for the apparent success, with both the Government and the Council pointing to their own policies.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock insisted Government measures were reaping rewards, including new traineeships and an expansion of apprenticeships. In addition, from last year, 16-year-olds have been required to stay on in some form of studying – rules to be extended to 17-year-olds this summer.
Mr Hancock said: “We have a clear programme of reforms to improve the quality of young people’s education to ensure, through traineeships and apprenticeships, that all have the chance to reach their potential.”
But Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford’s Cabinet member for education, said the progress was down to “a lot of effort” on the ground, in the city.
He said said schools, colleges, the Labour-run authority and employers were working more closely together to ensure young people were found suitable posts.
And he pointed out that Bradford’s careers advice service had been praised by a parliamentary inquiry – despite criticism of weaknesses in most areas.
Coun Berry said: “We have made a big effort to get young people into the most appropriate placements that meet their needs. That’s what underpins this.
“We also work hard to identify those most at risk of falling through the cracks. We are not there yet – but I’m pleased our efforts appear to be working.”