Teenagers drop out of education
England has a longstanding problem with youngsters dropping out of training.
Almost half of 17 year olds in some parts of England have dropped out of full-time education or training, government figures reveal.
The statistics show 49% in Thurrock and 44% in Salford have opted out of school or vocational training.
Across England, 31% of 17 year olds are not in education or training.
The figures also reveal deep regional divides, with wealthier areas such as Richmond and Harrow recording 18% of 17 year olds out of official education.
The statistics confirms England's poor international standing for staying-on rates in education.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks England's drop-out rates as among the worst among industrialised countries.
Regionally, the statistics show Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest rate of 17 year olds not in full-time education or work-based training at 35%.
Outer London has the highest staying-on rate, with 27% of 17 year olds having opted out of official learning.
In the East of England this figure stands at 31% and at 29% in the South West.
Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, said the government should be ashamed that so many youngsters were dropping out of school.
Mr Davey said lessons need to be made more relevant to young people and reiterated his party's backing for the curriculum reforms proposed by the Tomlinson committee.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said the government had implemented a series of reforms, with a ￡2.5bn rise in funding for further education
The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which was introduced in September 2004, was also encouraging young people to stay in education, he added. The EMA is a weekly payment of ￡10, ￡20 or ￡30, paid directly to eligible young people who stay on in, or return to, further education after they reach the statutory school leaving age.