In a move that would have wide-reaching consequences for teaching jobs, the former chief of Ofsted has recommended the school leaving age be cut to 14.
During an interview with The Times, Sir Chris Woodhead claimed that less academic students should be allowed to leave school when they are 14 instead of being forced to continue until they are 18, as the government are proposing.
He called the plans to keep pupils studying mathematics and English until they are 18 a "recipe for disaster" and said that turning vocational education courses into "quasi-academic" qualifications would be a big mistake.
Sir Chris told the newspaper that as long as a 14-year-old had mastered basic literacy and numeracy he saw no reason why they shouldn't leave school behind.
"I would be very happy for that child to leave school and go into a combination of apprenticeship and further education training and a practical, hands-on, craft-based training that takes them through into a job," he said.
There is little worthwhile to be gained from forcing children who already truant when they are 13 or 14 to remain in full-time education until they are 18 as it is unlikely they will adequately engage with their studies, he added.
The former chief inspector of the education watchdog now works at the for-profit schools company Cognita.
He resigned from Ofsted in 2000 following a degree of controversy which saw him earn the wrath of teaching unions following comments that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers in UK schools.
In his interview with The Times he went on to give his backing to the coalition government's plans to use synthetic phonics to raise reading standards in primary schools.
Literacy targets should be reached by 95 per cent of children by the time they reach 11, he claimed.
Earlier this year Sir Chris was knighted in the Queen's birthday honours list.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels