School leaving age raised

The meat industry said it welcomed plans to make children stay on at secondary school until the age of 17 as long as government promises were kept.

New government legislation means that pupils starting secondry school this month will be forced to stay in some sort of training until they turn 17.

Young people will have a choice of diplomas to study after the age of 16, but this might affect the progress of young people who want to train as apprentice butchers if they have to stay in school for longer.

Richard Stevenson, National Federation of Meat and Food Traders technical manager, said: "I suppose it depends on what measures they will introduce. At the same time, they keep talking about introducing vocational training even to the extent of 17- and 18-year-olds going off for work days in what we used to call, in my day, sandwich courses. It could be more of a benefit."

From 2015, young people will see the leaving age raised further to 18 years old, which is a government attempt to tackle the problem of teenagers not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

Managing director of training specialists M.E.A.T (Ipswich) Jane Dale, said: "If the government is going to do what it says with apprenticeships, then I do not have a problem."

Dale described the government plans as potentially "a good thing" to tackle the 18% of young people not in training or education. She is involved in the 14-19 Agenda, part of government reforms on education, and works with nine local schools to show them butchery skills at local training college, The SWISS Centre.

Although the plans are only to be introduced in England, Scotland also has problems when getting young people into training, although Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders, said it is a matter of money.

Scott said: "There is funding for training in Scotland for young people aged 16 to 18, but after the age of 19, you cannot get funding. This is rather silly when people need it."

Scott added that questions needed to be asked about the funding, as competition gets fiercer from all industries, to attract young people into its particular line of trade.