The Royal Academy of Engineering, which promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country, said today that even if young people were required to stay in education and training until 18, more needed to be done to encourage the study of science and mathematics post-16.

The Government plans to effectively raise the leaving age in the education system to 18. However, a survey of 500 people commissioned by The Royal Academy of Engineering shows that 56% favoured young people being able to leave the education system at or before the age of 16, while 40% agreed that it should be raised from the current age of 16.

Matthew Harrison, Director of Education at the Academy, said:

“Encouraging young people to participate in education and training beyond the age of 16 is crucially important. Education improves life chances and is the key to economic success. We also need to encourage more young people to study mathematics and science post-16. Students need a good grasp of these subjects if they are to study engineering with confidence. Unfortunately, many students currently choose not to study mathematics and science for A level.”

Of the 500 people surveyed by the Academy:

  • 44% believed the relatively poor uptake of science and maths post-16 was due to the difficulty of the subjects.
  • 33% thought that other subjects were more interesting to young people.
  • 28% believed that there was a shortage of good teachers in these subjects.
  • 27% thought that there are no aspirational role models to promote engineering and science.
  • 26% said that there is a greater choice of subjects available now.
  • 17% thought that science and engineering is not regarded as a route to a well paid career.

Matthew Harrison concluded:

“There are so many good job opportunities for young people who study mathematics and science post-16. We need to dispel myths any misconceptions about the subjects that may be deterring young people from studying them. For example, science and engineering are challenging rather than difficult subjects and are in fact subjects that lead to well remunerated, creative and satisfying careers.”

Notes for editors

  1. The sample of 500 people was drawn at random from adults throughout Great Britain with quotas set for age and gender.
  2. 500 interviews were conducted by telephone.
  3. Estimated statistical accuracy: +/- 3% to +/- 4% for the whole sample at the 95% confidence interval.
  4. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

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