There is so much mis-information about the rise of the education participation age, some of it unfortunately making its way in to some of the media coverage, that I feel I need to do something about. If you don't read any further, the most important thing you need to understand is that the current changes are not changing the school leaving age. Quite a few people, including some young people themselves, have become quite exercised about the idea of being forced to stay in school.
Here's why that is not the case:
Technically the school leaving age is going down to 14. The school leaving age is still legally 16. In fact, some further education colleges can now enrol 14 year olds full time (although only a few are allowed so far). Young people can still leave school at 16 if they want to. The only difference now is that they are supposed to be in some form of education and training up until 17 (and 18 from 2015). That could be a part time course in the evenings if you work full time, it could be a course on the job or an apprenticeship. No one is being forced to stay at school.
Schools have to inform young people. In the rest of the education world, schools have a pretty bad reputation for not providing pupils with good enough information about all of the options available to them when they leave school. Some have said this is because schools would rather keep their pupils in their own sixth forms. Others argue that teachers simply are not given information about going to college or doing an apprenticeship. Now though, schools have a legal duty to provide independent and impartial information, advice and guidance. Ofsted are looking in to how well schools are managing this new legal duty. This means that pupils should be able to decide what to do post-16 in full knowledge of array of opportunities available to them.
None if this is being enforced. When Labour legislated for the rise in the education and training participation age there were duties placed on local authorities to monitor, track and if necessary have powers to impose fines and things where young people were not meeting their obligations to stay on in education or training. There were also supposed to be similar sanctions for employers who took on young people and didn't give them time off for training or didn't provide them with training themselves. The coalition government decided to go ahead with bringing the participation age up, but felt that the sanctions of employers would deter them from employing young people.