Learning a trade is popular with boys
Pupils are training as thatchers, car mechanics, computer specialists and hairdressers, says a new analysis from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
While their classmates study compulsory subjects, pupils who want to learn a trade can drop science, technology or modern languages. Many have been guaranteed jobs on leaving school after proving themselves reliable during their placements.
Almost twice as many boys as girls are being allowed to give up compulsory subjects.
Education Secretary David Blunkett wants many more pupils to prepare for working life and believes the scheme can remotivate disaffected pupils and reduce truancy. He hopes to relax the rules to encourage more disaffected pupils to opt out of the full curriculum.
More than 7,500 teenagers at nearly 500 schools opted out of science, technology or languages to go on work-related courses and extra work experience this year.
Modern languages were most frequently dropped, with nearly 6,000 pupils opting out. Nearly 2,500 dropped design and technology and just over 1,000 aban-doned science. A tenth of 15-year-old boys opted to learn a trade.
The regulations came into force last September and allow 15 and 16-year-olds to drop two subjects out of science, a modern language and design and technology.
Schools must nevertheless ensure all students pursue a broad and balanced curriculum.