Colleges have achieved overwhelming success in motivating school pupils to stay on in education after the age of 16, according to research due to be published this week.
A study of the Increased Flexibility Programme - which gives 14 to 16-year olds the chance to study in college for part of the week - has resulted in 90 per cent of them staying in full-time education.
The scheme, which had been aiming to achieve a 75 per cent staying-on rate, has proven a "resounding success", said John Ratcliffe, group manager of 14-16 at the Learning and Skills Council.
One of the aims of the programme is to enthuse young people who are at risk of dropping out of education because they are not sufficiently motivated by the school curriculum.
Colleges offer courses including vocational GCSEs.
Mr Ratcliffe said: "Young people who have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the Increased Flexibility Programme should be congratulated on their achievements.
"The programme has been a resounding success in encouraging those young people to carry on their studies. Research out today is expected to show almost 90 per cent of students continuing their studies after 16 - far in advance of our 75 per cent target.
"By enhancing the range of vocational and work-related GCSEs and, crucially, working with employers to agree their syllabus and scope, young people's studies are much more relevant to them and to the labour market, with all the personal and business benefits that brings."
Fiona Harris, 17, who attended Glenmore school in Bournemouth, paid tribute to the scheme. She is halfway through the new vocational A-level in health and social care, having completed the health and social care GCSE in a college in the summer of 2004.
She said: "I've always known I wanted to go into nursing, so I jumped at the chance to study health and social care while still at school. The course has taught me self-reliance, with the lecturers treating me more like an adult than in my other lessons."
"The course has also encouraged me to take up a part-time job at a nursing home, and through it I've even done work experience at my local AE.
"I'm determined to succeed in nursing, and feel very lucky to have been able to make a start on my chosen career so early."
Anne McAlpine, lecturer at Bournemouth and Poole college, said: "For students committed to health care and wondering what traditional schooling can offer them, the new vocational GCSE offers excellent grounding in applicable skills that offer the first step on to a lifelong career path."
"The new vocational GCSEs, delivered through partnership between schools and colleges, offer a middle ground between school and work.
"They can help re-engage pupils in education through real life experiences and persuade them that further education has more to offer."