Latest government figures show one in four Norfolk young people miss out on key qualifications

One in four Norfolk young people have not achieved the equivalent of five GCSEs at grade C or above by the age of 19, according to new figures.

It puts the county's achievements considerably behind the national average and it is continuing to fall further behind despite gradual improvements over the past few years.

The figures, released yesterday by the department for education (DfE), show 77.3pc of 19-year-olds in Norfolk had at least a level two qualification – the equivalent of five C grades or above at GCSE – by the end of the 2010/11 academic year. Nationally it was 81.0pc, meaning one in five people failed to reach that level.

It is an improving picture for Norfolk but national rates are rising at an even faster rate.

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, pointed out that the percentage of pupils gaining level two qualifications between the age of 16 and 19 was rising faster than the national average and that the county had the highest proportion of 16-year-olds in the region in employment.

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She added: 'Our focus now, in addition to continuing to support school improvement, is to make sure that employment includes accredited training so that young people are developing their skills for the future.'

Apprenticeships will play a key part in that.

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Norwich South MP Simon Wright said it was good to see the county was making some improvements but that it was clear there was 'some way to go'.

Mr Wright added: 'It's is much harder later in life to go back to get those qualifications than it is at a younger age. I would encourage young people who could do just that little bit better by staying on for a little bit longer to do so. It will pay off in terms of the opportunities that come their way in later life.'

The MP said he was also worried that the gap between the poorest young people and their better off peers was still too great.

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