The Government has today set out detailed proposals so that from 2015 all young people will remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday.
Launching the Green Paper, Raising Expectations, Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson said the economic imperative was compelling. As the Leitch Review stated last year, British businesses will need ever more skilled employees to remain globally competitive.
Alan Johnson said: "It's not good for the economy or for young people if they leave school at 16 without the skills they need to succeed in the world of work. With fewer low skilled jobs we need more high skilled young people and this means spending more time in training or education. As a nation we"ve toyed with the idea for almost a hundred years, now is the time to make it a reality for all."
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown said: "Since 1997, the numbers of 16-24 year olds in full time education, employment or training has increased from 5.2 million to 5.8 million. But in the decade ahead we must do more. That is why, alongside increased investment in skills and training, for the first time in our country's history, we will make education a right for every young person until 18, and ensure they take up the opportunities open to them. "
The Green Paper set out a detailed package for consultation:
"¢ From 2013, young people should remain in education or training after 16 "“ this means the first pupils to be affected would be those entering secondary school in September next year.
"¢ Young people would be required to work towards accredited qualifications at school, in a college, or in "on the job" training or day release;
"¢ Apprenticeships will be significantly expanded so that they are available to any qualified young person who wants one;
"¢ Participation should be full time for young people not in employment for a significant part of the week and part time for those working more than 20 hours a week; "¢ Better advice and guidance for young people to enable them to access the provision that's right for them;
"¢ A high quality, accurate registration system to keep track of the education options a young person has chosen and to make sure they don"t drop out;
"¢ Building on the Education Maintenance Allowance we will consider new financial support measures to ensure young people from low income backgrounds get the support they need to overcome any barriers to participation.
To make sure the right provision is in place the new requirement would not be implemented until 2013 by which time the new Diplomas will be a National Entitlement. This will give young people a choice of A levels, GCSEs, the International Baccalaureate, the new Diplomas, Apprenticeships, and accredited in work training. Young people would be supported to re-engage if they drop out through integrated Youth Support Services. Any enforcement process would be used only as a last resort if a young person refused to re-engage.
Alan Johnson said: "Those young people who continue in education or training for longer earn more, and are less likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour. Often those that drop out are those with the most to gain from continuing to learn and gain useful skills. We must not allow young people to be left behind.
"This is not about requiring people to stay in school. Young people will be able to choose to stay on full or part time in schools, colleges, work-based learning or in accredited training with an employer.
"I believe that our future success as a nation depends on the education we provide to our young people. The time has now come for society to consider whether we are letting young people down by allowing them to leave education and training without adequate skills at the age of 16."