WORCESTERSHIRE has the worst figures in the country for the number of 16 and 17 year olds in training or education it has been revealed.

Figures released by the Department for Education show only 68.9 per cent of the county's 16 and 17 year olds were known to be in education or training, much lower than the national figure of 89.8 per cent.

The number also represents a dramatic 20 per cent drop compared to the county's figure of 89.4 per cent for last year.

The figures released are the first to come out since a change in the law demanding young people must stay in some form of education and training for longer.

Those leaving year 11 in summer 2013 must carry on with full-time education, an apprenticeship or go to work but with some part-time training until this June.

Those who started in year 11 this academic year will have to continue until at least their 18th birthday.

However, Worcestershire County Councilor Liz Eyre blamed data collection problems for the poor performance.

She said this year the county has a much larger number of 'unknowns' - where the council has no record of what they are doing - than before..

Cllr Eyre, cabinet member for Children and Families, said the number of county schools that were now academies and working autonomously may have made it more difficult for the council to access the relevant information than in the past.

In December 2013, 26.5 per cent were unknown compared to only four per cent the previous year.

Cllr Eyre said: "The number of young people not in education, employment or training has improved by 10 per cent but we do have a number of young people whose employment/education status is unknown to us, which is not acceptable.

"This has impacted our figures, so disappointingly Worcestershire's recorded figure is low compared to other authorities and neighbouring counties."

She said newly developed analysis tools would help get more sophisticated information.

Cllr Eyre said the council seemed to have "dropped the ball."

She added: "I have asked the question why have we got so many unknowns?

"Why are we not getting the information that we used to get?

"I'm told we are putting in place a system to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I think it's about working with the schools even more closely."

She said the council needed to unpick the figures to find out whether those not in education or training were people who were able to participate or not before concentrating its efforts on helping those who could find education, jobs or training.