The new education and skills bill announced in the Queen's speech this week will introduce a duty for teenagers to stay in education or training until they are 18.
If the proposals are passed, it will mean that in 2013 teenagers will only be able to stop education and training at 17, rising to 18 two years later. Government estimates show the decision would mean an extra 44,000 students in FE, an increase of nearly six per cent on the latest figures and the equivalent of 17 new colleges if the students study full-time.
The plans would require all under-18s to stay in school or college, carry out work-based training such as an apprenticeship or get accredited training during time off from paid work.
Those working more than 20 hours a week would only have to study part- time.
The Government believes the new diplomas, the foundation learning tier for low-level qualifications and expansion of apprenticeships will mean there are options for everyone. It will also mean creating a new registration system so local authorities and youth guidance services such as Connexions can keep track of whether young people are dropping out.
According to the green paper published earlier this year - Raising expectations: staying in education and training post-16 - if a student drops out, training providers would be obliged to raise the alarm.
The guidance service would get in touch to help resolve any difficulties and find the student a new place. If they refuse a final chance to participate voluntarily, they would receive an attendance order - civil proceedings obliging them to attend a specified course.
Only if they breach this would there be sanctions, which could be civil or criminal, although the Department for Children, Schools and Families says there will be no question of custodial sentences.
Parents would also be given a duty to help their children stay in education. A spokesman for the DCSF said they would only risk a parenting order if they obstructed their child's efforts to stay in education. Employers will be required to release under-18s in the workplace for one day a week, unless they provide their own training.