Education Leaving Age

Oral Answers to Questions — Children, Schools and Families – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 12th November 2007.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 2:30 pm, 12th November 2007

If he will make a statement on the Government's proposals that all young people should remain in education or training until the age of 18.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

We announced last week our intention to legislate to raise the participation age so that all young people can continue in education or training until 17 from 2013 and until 18 from 2015, building on the Green Paper published in March.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware that this country needs a bigger and better skilled work force, but nothing can be gained by forcing young men and women to stay on at secondary school. What is important is to increase dramatically both apprenticeships and the appropriate courses in colleges of further education, such as Macclesfield college. Will he make money available to enable those things to happen?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Yes. May I also say that I agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely? If our proposal was to raise the school leaving age to 18, he would be right to criticise us, but it is not: our proposal is to raise the education leaving age. From 2013, we want 16 and 17-year-olds to be in full-time school or college, in work with training or on an apprenticeship. We plan to increase the number of apprenticeships by 92,000 a year by 2013, precisely to achieve what he wants us to achieve. I hope that in tomorrow's Queen's Speech debate, when we can go into this in more detail, I will be able to persuade him, and other Conservative Members, that they are wrong to oppose our proposals on this. They should be supporting us in raising the education leaving age so that we can equip young people in our country for the 21st century.

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