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Home > News > March 2007 > 08 March 2007

Support for raising school leaving age, says Johnson

Nine out of ten people support the idea of staying in education or training until the age of 18, according to research published by Education Secretary Alan Johnson.

In a speech delivered yesterday to the Sector Skills Development Agency Mr Johnson highlighted the research which he said showed public support for extending compulsory education. He said raising the education leaving age had long term benefits for individuals, society and the economy, plugging the skills gap and boosting life chances.

According to the research:

  • Nine in ten people support the proposal that young people should stay in education or training until age 18.
  • Three quarters strongly agree with the proposal, with 81% of the 25 to 34 age group agreeing strongly
  • Those in the older age groups are most likely to link prolonged education to higher wages, with strong agreement from 75% of 55-64 year olds and 70% of those in the 65+ age group
  • Nearly 97% of grandparents said they would like their grandchildren to stay in education or a form of work-based training until they are at least 18
  • Two thirds of respondents (66%) agree that staying in education until 18 should be made a legal requirement
  • More women than men were for a change in legislation - 70% against 61% respectively
  • The highest support for a law requiring everyone to stay in education or work-based training until 18 is among the older age groups. More than half of those in the 55-64 and 65+ age groups agree strongly that the Government should change the law

Mr Johnson said: "The research being published today shows that there is wide support for raising the compulsory education age to 18, not just from pupils and employers, but wider society. Responses vary according to gender and region. But one of the most telling results must be the increase in support from the older age groups. There can be no stronger statement than the show of support from parents and grandparents, who realise that a good education is fundamental to fulfilling life and that leaving school at too young an age can damage opportunity.

"Today's stable economy and renewed educational infrastructure puts us in a strong position to introduce this major reform."

Mr Johnson added that raising the education participation age would also play a big role in meeting the skills challenge identified by Lord Leitch, increasing productivity by at least a billion pound a year.

Mr Johnson said the green paper will be published shortly and a consultation period will follow.

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