Education: More pupils staying on at school: The Government's statistical survey depicts prosperous and well-educated Britons deserting 'traditional' lifestyles. David Nicholson-Lord reports

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BRITISH children are leaving school better educated and with more qualifications. More children are staying on at secondary school and numbers in higher education have doubled in the last two decades.

Social Trends delivers a positive verdict on the education system. It points out that one-fifth of seven-year-olds reached the level of a nine-year-old in the national English and science tests in 1992, and that the proportion of school-leavers without graded GCSEs or the equivalent more than halved between 1975-76 and 1990-91.

According to Jenny Church, the survey's editor, such trends 'must indicate that the quality is improving . . . that we do have a better educated child leaving school'.

Between 1965-66 and 1991- 92 the number of under-fives in schools grew threefold. There were 1.3 million students in higher education in 1991-92, more than double the number in 1970-71.

Health is also improving, although with some black spots. Life expectancy is rising by two years every decade. A girl born this year can expect to live to 79, and a boy to nearly 74. Infant mortality is still declining and between 1991 and 1992 the number of cot deaths almost halved after extensive publicity.