Following concerns that too many teenagers leave education without the literacy and numeracy skills needed by employers, a written ministerial statement from Education Secretary Michael Gove sets out far-reaching
changes to the education system.
Employers have been complaining about the fact that too many young people lack the basic skills that would make them employable - in fact a CBI survey found that 40% of employers were dissatisfied with school leavers' literacy levels.
The Department for Education says more than 40,000 youngsters fail English at sixteen, and reach the age of nineteen without having any further lessons - but for math, the figure is up to 60,000.
From September 2013, then, pupils in England who don't make at least a C grade in either English or math will have to continue with the subjects until the age of 18.
One detail of the statement, hinting at the proposed return of O-levels, is the term "good pass", as opposed to the supporting notes to the statement mentioning GCSE grades.
At present, it appears that re-takes will be an option for those with D grades to enable them to get to a C grade.
The ministerial statement also sets out a change in education funding: instead of funding per qualification, the government will fund institutions "per student" - and for individual institutions, there is a three-year guarantee of no per- student funding cuts.
In a further written ministerial statement, Mr Gove indicated that employers will not have to check whether their young staff are fulfilling training requirements, with a review after the first wave of implementation when the leaving age is raised to seventeen in 2013.
The raising of the leaving age will address the high drop-out rate at age sixteen, and it's proposed that the process of raising the compulsory age for training and education to eighteen will be completed in 2015.
This follows concerns that employers might not be willing to employ teenagers if it meant the risk of sanctions and extra duties.
Labour Education Spokesman Stephen Twigg says the government is watering down plans to raise the participation age in training and education, and that the change represented another blow to young people".
"If the government is serious about raising the age at which young people leave education, they should implement the measures included in the legislation Labour introduced such as requiring employers to check a young person is enrolled on a course before employing them and arrange work to fit round education or training."
On the other hand, arranging work to "fit around education or training" is precisely what the modern apprenticeship is all about, offering trainees the advantage of work experience, on-the-job training, classroom education ... and a regular paycheque, which is why the number of people - aged between
sixteen and sixty - starting apprenticeship programmes is continuing its dramatic increase.