Early school leaving has always been a blight on the English education system. Throughout the nineteenth century children tended to leave school earlier than elsewhere in northern Europe. This continued well after the 1944 Education Act introduced free ‘secondary education for all’. By the early 1980s, barely more than 30% of 16-18 year olds were in full-time education and training, compared with well over 70% in Japan, Sweden and the USA. The proportion gaining a higher level qualification was also relatively low. UK-wide, only10% gained three A levels compared with over 20% gaining the Abitur in Germany and an even higher proportion achieving the Baccalauréat in France.
Wanting to understand this startling disparity, along with the exceptional underdevelopment of vocational education and training in (more…)