Tens of thousands of teenagers are leaving school before starting to study for GCSEs, a Government adviser said yesterday.
Sir Mike Tomlinson said it was "worrying" that so many young people disappear from their school register at the age of 14.
He estimated that up to 25,000 teenagers across the country leave early because they believe school "has nothing to offer them."
This is despite laws which say children must stay in compulsory education until the age of 16.
Speaking at the Chartered London Teacher Conference, Sir Mike, a former chief inspector of schools in England, said: "There are around 25,000 who fall off the rolls when they move from Year 9 to Year 10. They are saying 'this no place for me'.
"They end up in poorly paid jobs or with no jobs at all."
Sir Mike explained that each January, schools are required to fill in a form saying on that particular day how many children are on the school roll, or registered at that school.
This allows schools to track how many pupils are in each year as they move up through the school.
Up to Year 8 or 9, the figures fluctuate only slightly, but there is a big gap between Years 9 and 10.
Speaking after the conference, Sir Mike, now a Government adviser on London schools said: "At 14 they are voting with their feet and saying 'actually, school has nothing for me'."
He added: "In general terms we don't know where they are. They may be in college, and have persuaded a further education college to take them on, they may be working in their parents' business, or they may be on the streets."
Sir Mike said it can be difficult for schools to keep track of these youngsters.
He said: "When they leave school in July for the summer at the end of Year 9, you expect them to be there in Year 10.
"Schools do try to find out where they are. They have addresses and follow that up, but this obviously isn't successful, given that the figure then drops."
"They are very, very worrying figures."
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