The government minister for Education, Ed Balls has claimed that one of the bills to be announced in the Queen's speech this Tuesday will be "probably the biggest educational reform in 50 years". It is aimed at raising school leaving age to 17 years by 2013 and to 18 years by 2015.
But instead of focusing on the dire need for school and college places and facilities which is already a problem - and how the government is to tackle this - the first thing Balls tells us about, is the "robust regime" which will force 17 and 18 year olds to comply! Apparently there will be spot fines and penalties, (like ASBOs) and court action, with "support", of course...
Balls - and this government - have finally admitted that too many teenagers are leaving school at 16 (if not earlier!) without qualifications, and that this is happening in Britain much more than in other European countries. But where is his answer to the question "why"?
It is estimated that at least 10% of over 16s are "Neets" - not in education, employment or training, that is around 200,000 16-18 year olds. And if 18-24 year-olds are included, there are 1.1m! Of course, it is not the idle children of the idle rich who are counted as "Neets", but the children of the poorer sections of the working class, disadvantaged from the word go.
Balls said that by 2013, 90, 000 new apprentice training places will be created - which may be a 60% increase, but it's not enough and also means that today there are fewer than 40,000 places! Is it any wonder that so many youths end up at a loose end? Just as well that Balls has delayed his "big" reform until 6 years time then, when this government is unlikely to be around anymore.