From education to employment

All young people will be required to stay in education or training until 18 by 2015.

Government plans to raise the school leaving age to 18 were set out by Children, Schools & Family Secretary Ed Balls yesterday. The proposals will be in the Queens Speech today, requiring all young people in England to stay in education or training until 17 by 2013, and 18 by 2015

In a speech to the Fabian Society Ed Balls outlined Government strategy to extend the options available to young people staying in education or training. In addition to increasing the number of apprenticeships by 90,000 by 2013, financial support will be extended, the choice of qualifications will be widened and comprehensive advice and guidance will be available to help young people make the right choices

Ed Balls said: “In today’s fast changing, dynamic world, everyone needs skills to prosper. And the days where many people could leave school at sixteen without qualifications and work their way up into a fulfilling and rewarding career are behind us.

“As Sandy Leitch’s report said, the demand for high level skills has increased substantially over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so with a 50% increase in the proportion of jobs that demand high level skills by 2020.

“Raising the participation age is about social justice too – young people who leave education and training at 16 are disproportionately from poor families. Those who leave school early without good skills and qualifications are less likely to get a good job, while those who stay in education are more likely to gain further qualifications and are likely to earn more in the future.”

If young people fail to stay in education or take up an offer of training they could be subject to a fine or community service. Ed Balls continued: “If young people fail to take up these opportunities, there will be a system of enforcement – very much a last resort – but necessary to strike the right balance between new rights and new responsibilities. No one will be left out on the basis that it’s just not for them ““ or it’s too hard to meet their needs.

Shadow Children’s Secretary Michael Gove criticised the plans saying: “We want more children to stay on at school between 16 and 18 but the Governments plan is a classic case of a badly thought out policy. It will mean more disruptive children in schools and colleges, fewer jobs available for 16-18 year olds, and an even wider gap between rich and poor.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary, David Laws MP was dismissive of the “nanny knows best approach”. He said: “Threatening to criminalise young people who are not in education and training beyond the age of 16 cannot be the right approach.

“It seems bizarre that while ministers are considering extending the vote to people aged over 16, their approach to education is based on threats, compulsion, fines, inspectors and criminal sanctions.

“There is a real problem with young people dropping out of education at 16, but the right approach is surely to tackle poor basic skills at an early age and making the curriculum more relevant.

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