Opinion: Hot issue - Should education be compulsory until you are18?

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, is considering raising the school leaving age from 16 to 18. The plan comes after the Government set a target of having 90 per cent of 17-year-olds staying in education by 2015.

YES: GRAHAM HOYLE, chief executive, Association of Learning Providers - But only if "staying on" includes adequate provision for pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship programmes understood by all. Staying on will benefit the young person and the economy if choices on academic or vocational options are free from bias. With successful completion rates increasing, the current demand for Apprenticeships is not being met and ministers must address this in the comprehensive spending review.

NO: JOHN DUNFORD, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders - There's already far too much education legislation. Compulsion is unnecessary because we're moving towards this already through the 14-19 agenda. It also obscures the real issue, which is the need to raise the proportion of 16- to 19-year-olds in full-time education or training, on courses or training programmes that are suited to them. When a better vocational course framework is in place, this will be a more achievable objective.

YES: COUNCILLOR GRAHAM LANE, chair of the Engineering Diploma Development Partnership's steering group - We need to guarantee that everyone remains in education and training until the age of 18. The new specialised diplomas will help. The curriculum will need to be replaced by relating education to the world of work and preparing people for a democratic and multiracial society. That means schools, industry and colleges working together, so all students have the maximum opportunities to develop their talents.

YES: STEVE STEWART, chief executive, Connexions Coventry and Warwickshire - Providing we are able to offer the range and quality of learning that young people want, yes. The key is to put young people at the heart and develop a student before institution culture. The consequences of not getting this right will be horrendous, not just because young people are the future wealth creators, but it also makes sense that every young person should be given the opportunity to contribute to our economy and their community.

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