Scots reform met Iron Lady resistance

January 4, 2002

A Scottish Parliament may have been unimaginable 30 years ago, but there were devolutionary rumblings over the impact of raising the school leaving age to 16 in 1972, writes Olga Wojtas.

Scotland faced acute teacher supply problems compared with England. In England, significantly more pupils already stayed on beyond the minimum leaving age.

Teddy Taylor, the then Scottish education minister, asked whether the burden might be eased by allowing pupils to spend their final year in a further education college.

English education secretary Margaret Thatcher and the Department of Education and Science had shown no interest in a further education option.

The argument south of the border was that pupils would not get such a suitable education in a college, and this would undermine the benefits of raising the leaving age.

But one senior Scottish official wrote: "I think that some young people - a limited but significant number - would find a college of further education more stimulating and conducive to progress than a secondary school. However, I do not think this is the occasion to voice those views."

The plans allowed pupils to spend a day a week in a college in their last year.

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