HC Deb 02 April 1974 vol 871 cc1083-4
13. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will propose special exemptions to the law relating to the extension of the school leaving age to 16 years of age, so as to allow those pupils wishing to proceed to Forces' training establishments to do so at 15 years of age or thereafter.

Mr. Armstrong

No, Sir.

Mr. Hannam

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is a need for much greater flexibility in the imposition of this rule, especially with regard to the problems of recruitment in the Services? Does he not agree that many children and youths would gain a great deal more by attending the very high standard Services training establishments, which would alleviate some of the problems caused in the schools by children being forced to stay on, sometimes, until the age of 16½?

Mr. Armstrong

The Service training establishments do not and are not intended to provide a basic education. While the Government are concerned about recruitment, we think that 15 is too early an age to choose a career with the marked degree of commitment required by the Armed Services. We stand very much by the idea that every child has a right to five years of secondary education.

Mr. Christopher Price

Quite apart from the question of going into the Services, is my hon. Friend aware that the raising of the school leaving age to 16 has caused serious problems? Has he read the speech made to the Headmasters Association by Mr. Harry Judge, the Director of the Oxford University Department of Education, on this subject? Will he investigate seriously the problems of alternatives to school which still involve education between the ages of 14 and 16?

Mr. Armstrong

The Government are very much aware of these problems and the difficulties created for teachers, but we are mindful, too, that we are only halfway through the first year of the raising of the school leaving age. It is much too early for my right hon. Friend to make a judgment on this matter.

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