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Truancy fines for pupils made to stay until 18

London Telegraph | March 23, 2007
Simon Tisdall

Teenagers who skip school or college face a £50 fine and a possible criminal record under plans to increase the education leaving age to 18.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, said yesterday that a series of "carrots and sticks" would be used to ensure more than a million 16- and 17-year-olds complied with the law. Any teenager failing to attend school, college or on-the-job training would be given a new-style Asbo, he said.

Those breaching the so-called "attendance orders" face a fixed £50 penalty and repeat offenders will be hauled before youth courts for a possible community sentence.

Other teenagers may have their driving licence revoked.

Mr Johnson insisted the penalties were aimed at a "really hard core" likely to rebel against the proposals, which will raise the school-leaving age for the first time since 1972. But critics warned that it risked "criminalising" hundreds of young people.

David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said: "The real problem is that too many students are not mastering the basics by the age of 16. Forcing them to stay on for another two years does not of tackle the underlying problem. What we need is higher standards in our schools."

Britain currently has one of the worst staying-on rates beyond the age of 16 in the developed world. There were 124,000 16- and 17-year-olds not in education or employment last year and a further 79,000 in full-time work without any training.

According to a Green Paper published by the Department for Education and Skills yesterday, by 2015 all students will have to remain in education until their 18th birthday. The law will affect those children starting secondary school in September 2008. Ministers estimate that most students will be accommodated in new on-the-job training schemes or college courses.

The Government said many teenagers will take apprenticeship courses, which Gordon Brown pledged to double in the Budget, and a new generation of 14-to-19 diplomas combining academic study and work-based tuition.

A new electronic database will log each pupil's destination after leaving school. Colleges and companies will be required to update the national register and inform on teenagers failing to turn up.

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