Tuesday, November 06, 2007

School leaving age ...

The "Education and Skills Bill" announced in today's Queen's Speech at Westminster has had quite a bit of trailing over the past few days.

I'm convinced it's a very positive move and do feel that when it's considered in an historic context, it really is nothing that extraordinary:

1870: First compulsory school for younger children
1880: Attendance enforced for 5-10 year olds
1899: Leaving age raised to 12
1918: Full-time education compulsory up to 14
1944: Education Act raises leaving age to 15
1964: Raising of school leaving age to 16 announced, but not in place until 1972
2007: Raising of school leaving age to 18 announced, but not in place until 2015

What I do find worthy of note, is that I think it's probably the first significant and progressive step for Education since devolution that is NOT going to apply to Scotland.

I'm not complaining - that's devolution, which I remain an ardent supporter of. That said, I can't help but reflect that Labour's local Edinburgh manifesto had the following commitment:

"Make sure every young person leaving school is qualified to go straight into work, or into training, or into more education. We don’t want anyone left aside."

... and Labour Scottish manifesto had this commitment:

"We will make leaving school at 16 and 17 conditional on a young person staying meaningfully engaged in higher or further education, skills training, or full time volunteering."

In a sense, it's too early to say if this will be another policy-divergence as the purely 'England and Wales' change announced today won't come into full force until 2015 ... but even if Scotland 'catches up' it is the first time since 1999 that I've felt that we, North of the Border, may have some catching up to do at all.

To date, post the 1999 devolution settlement, I've felt that the most progressive changes to social and educational policy have happened right here in Scotland - no longer I'm afraid.

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