Study Shows Public Support for Raising School Leaving Age

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Nine out of ten people support the idea of staying in education or training until the age of 18 – with the strongest support coming from grandparents - according to government research.

In a speech to the Sector Skills Development Agency Education Secretary this week Alan Johnson highlighted the research which shows public support for extending compulsory education.

According to the government:

  • 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.
  • 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%) feel that staying in education until 18 should be made a legal requirement.

The Education Secretary said raising the education leaving age had long term benefits for individuals, society and the economy, plugging the skills gap and boosting life chances.

He said gaining five GCSE’s not only added £200,000 to a person’s lifetime earnings, but evidence showed that the older a person is when they leave education, the less likely they will be to use drugs, become engaged in prostitution or commit crime.

Johnson said: “There’s a spiral of despair for a significant minority which starts with disinterest at school, turns to disillusionment with society, and ends up presenting huge problems for society. The evidence suggest that the younger a person leaves school, the more likely he or she will be to use drugs, become engaged in prostitution or commit crime; finally winding up in prison, unemployed or homeless – often all three.”

He 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.

The green paper is expected to be published shortly and a consultation period will follow.

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