When compulsory education was introduced in this country nearly 150 years ago, children were only expected to attend classes until they were 13.
But that school leaving age has inched up ever since.
It became 16 in 1964, long before we were born, but it has jumped again. Now we are expected to remain in full-time education until we are 18, and although that’s the right course for many teenagers there are also many who have no wish to remain in school, and who believe they should have the right to choose whether they continue their education in the classroom or head off into the great wide world.
Some pupils just aren’t able to thrive in our school system. Those who are affected by disorders like ADHD and conditions such as dyslexia find it particularly hard to keep up, and extra support is often not easy to secure. If they cannot focus they can become disruptive, and distract others who are trying to learn alongside them.
But if pupils like these were still able to leave school at 16 they would be able to pursue a career in a field that they find suited them, rather than spend two more years failing to fit in to a system which just isn’t geared up to help them.
And spending longer in school, or going on to university, is no guarantee of success in later life. Amstrad boss Lord Sugar, the man who hires and fires on TV show The Apprentice is a multimillionaire, but he left school at 16
Simon Cowell never went into a sixth form, Richard Branson left school at 15, and so did former cabinet minister Alan Johnson, who as education minister was in charge of schools for a time.
We believe it is much better for students who aren’t aiming for academic success, or suited to that course, to be able to learn outside the confines of a school if that’s what they want to do.
People may say that there’s no sense in leaving school if there are no jobs but there are always jobs to be done, and for some people learning skills in the workplace is the best and quickest way to develop and their experience is quickly recognised as equal to, or preferable to, paper qualifications.
We hear a lot about equal rights, but it seems that many rights are being removed from teenagers. How is it possible that we are considered mature enough to marry at 16, or join the army, but are apparently expected to stay on at school for two years after that?
We have created an online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/lowering-the-school-leaving-age/signatures which is open to anyone to sign. We have also gathering support in our school.
We would really appreciate your help, so please sign our petition. Sohail Rahman-Blake, Ellis Cutten and Mushood Malik are all Year 10 students at Hemel Hempstead’s Longdean School