The government will this month publish plans to raise the compulsory education age to 18.
Secretary of state for education and skills Alan Johnson revealed the plans yesterday in a speech to the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA).
He said that keeping all children in school or workplace training schemes for an extra two years was vital to tackling the UK’s skills crisis, and would stop youngsters from turning to drugs and prostitution.
“There’s a spiral of despair for a significant minority which starts with disinterest at school, turns to disillusionment with society, and ends up presenting huge problems for society,” he said.
“The evidence suggests that the younger a person leaves school, the more likely he or she will be to use drugs, become engaged in prostitution, or commit crime.”
The Department for Education and Skills released figures showing that nine in 10 people supported the idea of staying in education or training until the age of 18.
“The research being published today shows that there is wide support for raising the compulsory education age to 18, not just from pupils and employers, but wider society,” said Johnson.
Skills envoy Sir Digby Jones told delegates at the SSDA conference that the UK was “in the last chance saloon” in its bid to equip its citizens with the basic skills needed to make them employable in the new global economy.
A consultation period on the raising of the compulsory education age will follow the publication of the Green Paper later this month.