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Lower the school-leaving age

The Government's declared intention to raise the school-leaving age from 16 to 18 for all school pupils is surely counter-intuitive, even perverse.

Here are six reasons why the existing school leaving age should be lowered to 15, even 14: first, secondary pupils are getting much older and wiser quicker. It is estimated that a 12 year old in 2000 was equivalent to a child of 12-and-a-half in 1990.

Second, at least half of all pupils aged 16 are not natural academics set upon higher education. If further and higher education are not to suffer huge drop-out rates, they should remain voluntary and probably become part-time.

Third, those who aren't naturally academic shouldn't have to study such a traditional curriculum. Streets, shops, fields and forests can teach more useful lessons.

Fourth, there are many caring tasks society needs doing: paid and unpaid.

Pupils who took them on would not be skiving, but using their energies creatively.

Fifth, work experience is extremely valuable for many 14 and 15-year-olds.

With the right safeguards in place, paid work could be a valid option for pupils otherwise inattentive in the classroom.

Sixth, and most importantly, both this generation of teenagers and the next will rely heavily on computers and the internet. They will no longer need to carry lots of information around in their heads.

Godfrey H. Holmes

Chesterfield Derbyshire

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