'Scandal' of soaring teenage drop-outs

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The Independent Online

The number of teenagers dropping out of full-time education is soaring despite record pass rates in GCSE exams, a report says.

Figures show the number of 16-year-olds no longer in any kind of education or training has shot up by a third in a decade - from 56,000 to 75,000 (from 9.4 per cent to 12.6 per cent).

They were described as "shocking" by Bahram Bekhradnia, head of the Higher Education Policy Institute, the think-tank that produced the report.

The figures come in the wake of a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which showed that the UK was 27th out of 29 industrialised nations in terms of the percentage of youngsters staying on after 16. Those figures were described as a "scandal" by David Miliband, who was Schools minister at the time - but today's report shows the percentage who go straight from school either on to the streets or unskilled employment is growing.

The report also shows that the percentage of pupils going on to take A-levels has stagnated - even though the numbers obtaining five top grade A* to C grade passes at GCSE has risen from less than half the population a decade ago to 58 per cent.