What's the thinking behind changing the leaving age to 19

01:00 Fri 15th Feb 2002 |

asks Jarnold:
The Green Paper is the biggest shake-up in secondary education for more than ten years. It proposes a new leaving age of 19.

Q. Why
It is designed to encourage all young people to stay on at school or take up training. The new 'matriculation diplomas' for 19-year-olds aim to persuade students to mix and match new vocational exams with traditional A-levels. Education Secretary Estelle Morris said the new diploma would 'inspire and motivate all young people to stay in learning beyond 16'.

Currently, only 75% stay on after the age of 16, compared to 90% in Germany.

Q. Is the diploma the same as the old school certificate
It's similar to the school certificate, which ended in the 1950s. The diploma will record all education achievements. Pupils who achieve two grade As and a B at A-level - or the vocational equivalent - will receive a higher diploma.

There's also some debate on whether the matriculation diploma should contain a section on 'active citizenship' which would give potential employers some indication of that pupil's character.

Q. What sort of things would be included
Any activity which showed such skills as leadership, team-work and problem-solving, for example. Sporting or musical achievements and voluntary work could also be included.

Q. What do employers and teachers think
Most employers' groups were happy about the plans because they'd give a fuller picture of a student. However, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, wasn't so welcoming. He claimed that employers and university admissions tutors only want to know about grades, and didn't see the point of separate certificate for higher grades.

The Government argues that our current one-size-fits-all education system means that too many children become disaffected and drop out.

Q. Are there any other changes planned for education
Yes. They include letting 14-year-olds drop academic subjects to study work-related courses at college or go out on work experience for two days a week, which has proved to be controversial. As has the fast-track proposal to allow high-achievers to skip GCSEs and move straight on to AS-levels.

There are fears that we'll end up with a two-tier system of education - one for the brightest kids and another for everyone else.

Q. When will the new system start
Estelle Morris said that the matriculation diplomas could be piloted in autumn this year and be available nationwide by 2007.

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