Mrs Shephard has proposed that 14- to 16-year-olds might spend one day a week at work and a second day at a further education college while remaining on the school roll. At present 90 per cent of secondary pupils do just one or two weeks' work experience.
The scheme, which aims to motivate young people who are bored with normal lessons, was attacked by secondary headteachers who yesterday began their annual conference in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Mrs Shephard said: "Our aim must be to raise standards by improving young people's awareness of the world of work and motivating them by relating what they do at school to the world."
She said the Government was also considering establishing national standards to ensure that all work experience was of high quality. In addition, more qualifications might be offered to 14- to 16-year-olds such as basic skills exams in numeracy, literacy and information technology.
Heads were sceptical about the plans. Peter Miller, vice-president of the Secondary Heads Association, questioned whether enough employers could be found to carry them out. John Dunford, the association's president, said: "I would worry about the quality of the scheme if small employers who are not involved in training are going to do it."
Headteachers also say that there will not be enough time to cover the national curriculum if pupils are absent from school for two days a week.
Labour's proposal is for pupils to spend one day a week out of school, including further education and or work experience.
t Mrs Shephard also told the conference that she was proposing a system of self- assessment for schools under which weak ones would be inspected more often and strong ones less frequently. At present, schools are inspected every four years but Mrs Shephard has accepted advice from Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, that stronger schools should be visited every six years.Reuse content