In a recent interview with The Times newspaper, Sir Chris Woodward, former Ofsted chief inspector, claimed that children should be allowed to leave school aged 14.
He believes that children who are less academically-minded would be better off being allowed to learn a trade and taking up vocational apprenticeships rather than being forced to study maths and English up to the age of 18.
He said: "If a child at 14 has mastered basic literacy and numeracy, 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 also claimed that making vocational education "quasi-academic" was a mistake and that the Government had a "Utopian" view of schools.
Sir Woodward declared that making children study academically until the age of 18 was a "recipe for disaster".
He said: "Does anybody seriously think these kids who are truanting at 13, 14 are going to stay in school in a purposeful, meaningful way through to 18.
"It just seems to me the triumph of ideological hope over reality."
Currently the school leaving age is 16; however, from 2013 the age will raise to 17. This is an interim step in Government policy. From 2015 pupils will have to stay in some form of education or training until the age of 18.
From 1994 until 2000, Sir Woodward was the chief inspector for the education watchdog Ofsted. But he is now chairman of the not-for-profit schools company Cognita.
In answer to Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion for independent schools to sponsor academies, Sir Woodward described it as "morally wrong".
He said: "The more that the science facilities or the playing fields are used by non fee-paying children, the less they are available for the parents of children who do pay the fees.
"If the head of science teaches half a day a week at a comprehensive school, it may be good for the comprehensive school, but I don't think it is good for the children who are in the private school."
However, he did back the Government's plans to improve literacy in primary-school-age children through the use of synthetic phonics.
This is expected to increase the proportion of children aged 11 reaching the literacy target from 80% to 95%.
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