A scheme that gives vocational training to 14 to 16-year-olds is a successful alternative to traditional academic routes, a major review has concluded.
Ofsted, which carried out the three-year evaluation, said the Young Apprenticeships programme was held in "high regard" by pupils and had improved "significantly" since its inception in 2004.
However, it said more needed to be done to tackle "persistent weaknesses" such as gender stereotyping and a failure to meet individual pupils' needs.
The programme allows key stage 4 pupils to spend two days of their school week working towards a vocational qualification in a chosen industry.
During the two-year apprenticeships, pupils must also complete 50 hours of work experience in fields that include hairdressing, construction and retail. Employers and pupils alike praised the programme, with businesses saying that they saw "significant benefits" for themselves and pupils - to the extent that some offered jobs to apprentices at the end of their placements.
However, the report criticised "non-existent" policies for tackling gender stereotyping, which meant that all hairdressing and social care apprenticeships went to girls and all engineering and nearly all construction placements to boys.