A written parliamentary reply from the Schools minister, Jacqui Smith, showed that in 2003-04, 278,000 youngsters aged 16 to 18 enrolled in Skills for Life "catch-up" lessons in English and maths.
The Tories say the figures show the government's education policy is a shambles. Mark Hoban, the shadow Education minister, said: "Despite eight years of initiatives and hundreds of millions of extra funding, the Government is still failing to ensure every young person is being taught the basics in our schools.
"Without these skills, young people will find it difficult to get good jobs and proper training. We should ensure that no young person leaves school without mastering the basics and they should not have to rely upon catch-up courses in colleges." The Skills for Life courses are provided for any teenager who leaves school without a GCSE at grade A-C in English and maths.
The CBI has said one in three companies has to provide remedial training for school leavers to improve their writing and arithmetic. A CBI survey of 500 companies showed 37 per cent were not satisfied with the numeracy and literacy standards. Digby Jones, the CBI's director general, said employers were having to "pick up the pieces and the bill" because of shortcomings in the education system.
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