As of this week, students will be forced to remain in education until they are 17 - a whole year after completing their GCSEs, and as of September 2015, the age will be 18. Is this a good idea?
The simple answer is: No. Not everyone blossoms at school, and to force those who are desperate to leave and start work is surely detrimental. The fact that at 16 you can choose to remain in education is very important: taking away that choice is only punishing those who do not wish to stay.
What will this result in? You can bet on seeing a rise in more disruptive classrooms. I know from my own personal experience that GCSE classes are a lot more chaotic than A-level classes - there is a different atmosphere and a greater level of respect among A-level students precisely because they have chosen to take them. Effectively, these reforms will penalise those who want to learn, because they will be in classes with students who quite simply don't want to be there. I believe at 16 you're responsible enough to make your own decisions - we don't need the government to make those decisions for us.
For students who have no interest in school, or who don't do well under the system, this can only be detrimental to their self-esteem. It also withdraws their chance - often yearned for from an early age - to start to embark upon a chosen career path that doesn't depend on the rigid and often suffocating study for academic qualifications. And surely achieving poor marks can in fact hinder you more than it helps you?
No one likes being told what to do, let alone us "anti-social yobs" as we're so frequently branded by the media. And on that note, pupils who feel they're wasting their time at school would surely be more likely to participate in anti-social behaviour, as they'll rebel against their forced education.
Of course better educated pupils are more beneficial to our society, but passing laws to make us stay in education is not the best way of going about this. With almost one in five students leaving school aged 16, the government needs to reach out to these pupils instead of punishing them.
There are still fundamental flaws in the existing system, and increasing the number of pupils attending college will only put a bigger strain on schools. This could in fact result in a worse educated workforce.
The exam reforms introduced by Michael Gove will only serve to make school less appealing for students. With coursework at GCSE level being scrapped, AS levels binned, and entire two-year A-level courses being examined in one sitting, the result will be more resentment and more pressure. This is not tackling problem of the education system - it is making it worse.
This combination of more resentful pupils and a higher school leaving age could potentially be disastrous. One thing is almost certain; the changes won't improve the education system.
Going into my last year of school, I can only be thankful I have avoided the real impact of the changes to follow.
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