Queen’s speech targets skills and confirms plan to raise school leaving age

Education and skills topped the agenda in today’s Queen’s speech.

The government plans to phase in the extend the education participation age to 17 by 2013 and to 18 by 2015. Teenagers who refuse to stay on face spot fines of £50 or court action and a possible £200 fine.

The Queen said: “My government is committed to raising educational standards and giving everyone the chance to reach their full potential.

“A Bill will be introduced to ensure young people stay in education or training until age 18 and to provide new rights to skills training for adults,” she added.

It follows a speech delivered yesterday by Ed Balls,schools secretary, to the Fabian Society in London.

Balls said: “We still have one of the lowest rates of staying on in education or training at 17 of any country in the developed world. If we don’t act now to increase participation it will be the most disadvantaged young people in our society who will be the losers.”

Education reform plans also include an improved apprenticeship system, whereby all school leavers will be entitled to an apprenticeship place by 2013 as part of a drive to provide more workplace skills.

The government proposes to introduce a duty on public sector bodies to offer apprenticeships and has set a target of 500,000 apprenticeships in the UK by 2020 – 400,000 of which will be in England.

Speaking ahead of the Queens Speech David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Combining new specialised diplomas and an expansion in the number of apprenticeships with a rise in the compulsory participation age to 18 is a move that we welcome.

“The government has clearly identified the problem and hopefully these proposals will ensure that young people develop the skills and motivation to succeed by the age of 18,” he added.

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