The current low level of participation in either full-time education or training of English 16 and 17 year-olds is a major problem. It is the main reason why the UK government is so keen to increase the age at which young people finish full-time education or training from 16 to 18, and to introduce diplomas as an additional qualification with a stronger vocational element. Seventy-nine per cent of English 16 year-olds are in full-time education, a proportion

that falls to 67 per cent at age 17.1 While it is true that this figure has recently improved and around 16 per cent of 17 year-olds are in work-based training, including apprenticeships, this still means that nearly 18 per cent of 674,000 English 17 year-olds are not in any education or training. The recent decision to raise the age of compulsory education from 16 to 18 will require

the provision of a very large number of additional places in schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges, possibly as many as 200,000 additional places. This is how participation in education and training of 17 year-olds breaks down by

percentage of age group:2

Full-time education 66.5 per cent Work-based learning 7.6 per cent Employer-funded training 4.0 per cent Other education and training 4.3 per cent Not in any education or training 17.6 per cent Total 100.00 per cent

By contrast, over 90 per cent of German and French 17 year-olds are in full-time education or training. There are many causes of this failure to educate adequately such a large proportion of

our young people. The first is historical. In my opinion, the Butler 1944 Education Act3

was never properly implemented. While a third of the population were well educated in the selective grammar schools, many of the rest did not receive a good education in the secondary modern schools, and sadly there were never more than 200 technical schools established. By contrast, the English education mission which advised Germany on how

to establish a similar system in 1945, did a much better job of advising that country on how to provide high-quality vocational education in addition to the provision of schools for the academically gifted, as is explained later on in this chapter and in Chapter 15. When the comprehensive schools were introduced in England in the 1960s and 1970s,

to rectify the unfairness of the 11+ examination which decided who went to the grammar schools, the focus was on equity of provision rather than the provision of different types of courses required for children with different aptitudes. This ‘one size fits all’ mantra bedevilled English education until the introduction of specialist schools and academies provided a wider range of schools and more choice for parents. It is now important to build on this diversity to provide the high-status vocational courses necessary to persuade non-academically inclined 16 and 17 year-olds to stay in full-time education. A second crucial cause is the fact that over half of English maintained secondary schools

do not have post-16 provision.4