Raising of school leaving age Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_of_school_leaving_age

The raising of school leaving age (ROSLA) is an act brought into force when the legal age a child is allowed to leave compulsory education increases. In most countries, the school leaving age reflects when young people are seen to be mature enough within their society, but not necessarily when they are old enough to be regarded as an adult.

There are several reasons why a government may wish to raise the school leaving age. It may be due to a lack of skilled labour in the country, or it may simply be a way of reducing a country's unemployment figures.



In Brazil, the current school leaving age is 17.


In Canada, the age in which children are required to attend schools is determined by the provinces. Currently, enrollment in education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in all provinces and territories of Canada, barring Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario, in which the school-leaving age is 18 unless the student graduates secondary education at an earlier age. In some provinces, early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances under the age of 16.

United States[edit]

In the United States, as of January 2014, 23 states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, and Puerto Rico require students to attend school until they are 18 or until they graduate high school. In two of these states, the requirement went into effect in July 2017. There are 11 states that require school attendance until age 17, while 16 states and the Virgin Islands only require schooling until age 16. Those states which have raised their minimum dropout ages above 16 may provide for exceptions with parental consent at ages 16 or 17. Further, most states have clauses allowing for graduation by students who manage to complete all academic requirements early.[1]

States and territories with a minimum dropout age of 18[edit]

States and territories with a minimum dropout age of 17[edit]

States and territories with a minimum dropout age of 16[edit]



The school leaving age was raised from 16 to 18 following a law change on 17 July 2007. The change will be implemented within three years of the law being passed.[2] In the 2005-6 school year 5.6% of students left school before the age of 18, mostly at age 16; the dropout rate was highest amongst Bedouin (9.8%) and lowest amongst Jewish students (4.7%).[2]



The school leaving age in Belgium is set at 18.[3]


The statutory minimum school leaving age in France is 16. There are, however, a few specific cases where young people may enter employment before the age of 16, such as employment in their parents’ company, sporadic work or taking up an apprenticeship at 14, to name a few. The apprenticeship option is becoming increasingly popular.[4]


The school leaving age in Germany is essentially set at 18. However, it does differ depending on the school type. For example, those attending a Gymnasium study for their Abitur and so leave at a later age of 18 than those for example attending a Berufsschule (16) or a Hauptschule (also 16).[3]


Although the national schools provided free primary education in Ireland from the 1830s, the Powis Commission of 1868-70 recognised a problem of low school attendance.[5][6] The Education (Ireland) Act 1892 made attendance compulsory from ages 6 to 14 in urban districts, extended to rural districts by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898.[5] However, there were many exemptions and enforcement was patchy.[5] The Killanin Committee of 1918–19 documented the flaws in the system.[5][7] The School Attendance Act, 1926 established a harder minimum of 14 years, controversially retaining a temporary exemption in spring and autumn for children over 12 working on the family farm.[5][8] This exemption was extended in 1936 and expired in 1940.[9][10] The 1926 Act also empowered the Minister for Education to raise the school leaving age to 15 or 16 for some or all children; though debated from the 1940s on, this was not invoked until 1972, to raise the age to 15.[11][12] The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 raised the age to the current minimum of 16 years, and prohibits under-18s from leaving school until they have completed three years of secondary education (i.e. up to Junior Certificate).[13][14][15]


Until recently[when?] in Italy, students could leave school once they reached the age of 14. The compulsory school leaving age was raised to 16 years to bring the country into line with the rest of the EU. The reform of the educational system presently underway in Italy has increased the school leaving age to 18 years. Apprentices below the age of 18 without occupational qualifications are offered the option of completing compulsory education required by Italian law.[16]


School leaving age in Netherlands is set at 18.[3]


The most recent occurrence of the school leaving age being raised in Poland was in 1999. The Polish government overhauled the country's education system, resulting in school attendance being made compulsory up to the age of 18, though there are some non-school alternatives including apprenticeships.[17]


In Spain, compulsory education is enforced from the age of 6, with their school leaving age set at 16.[18]

United Kingdom[edit]

The school leaving age in the UK, particularly in England and Wales, has been raised numerous times. The first act to introduce and enforce compulsory attendance was the Elementary Education Act 1870, with school boards set up to ensure children attended school, although exemptions were made for illness and travelling distance. Since then, the age has been raised several times, most notably to 15 through the Education Act 1944 and to 16 in 1972, along with the addition of so called "ROSLA Buildings" built as part of a school expansion scheme to cope with the extra number of students and Middle schools, the latter serving the 8-12 or 9-13 age ranges, though many have since been abolished.

In Scotland, the leaving age was also raised in 1972 with John D. Pollock, then a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, commenting in 1973 that the age raise led to "increased violence and delinquency in schools".[19] However, in a special inquiry by the Evening Times the following year, it was found that the majority of students said leaving the age had been a success, as ambitions had been raised in their final year, leading to a greater number going in to meaningful employment or apprenticeships rather than unskilled labour.[20] In contract, school teachers had a different view, particularly due to the increased workload and number of students they now had to accommodate. In one instance, a headteacher visited a class of 16 year olds to find them playing cards "or just kicking their heels with boredom".[21] Other reports suggested the leaving age raise was a "cheat" for many young people, as expectations had been built up without being able to "supply the goods", often leading children to be "fobbed off with diverting".[22]

Some 16-year-olds in England and Wales are of compulsory age (those who turn 16 between September and June). Students must remain in school until the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16 (usually the end of Year 11), however all students academically graduate on 31 August once everyone turns 16 as some students are still 15 throughout July to the end of August.

In September 2014 the education leaving age was raised to 17, and from September 2015 it was raised to 18.[23] However, these changes admit becoming an apprentice, having a full time or part-time job to enroll into, or going to college as alternatives to school.

Raising the participation age to 18 was first proposed to come into effect with the Education Act 1918. Plans for this were soon dropped when the government needed to cut public spending after World War I, as was the case when attempts were made to raise it in 1944, with cuts in spending after World War II delaying any plans preparing for it.[24]



The current age at which a child can leave compulsory education in the state of New South Wales was raised to 14 in May 2009. The Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt stated "all the research shows that if students hurry up and leave school at an early age they are more likely to contribute to the rising numbers of sex slaves on the Australian street. We see this as a good thing since our country is so sex crazed".[25]

The state of South Australia also suggested similar proposals in March 2006, saying that their school minimum age should be raised from 13 to 14 by 2008. Independent state MP Bob Such suggests that it may not happen for at least another four years, whilst in the meantime, too many children are leaving school without any qualifications. The age will be raised by law on 1 January 2009 to 17 or 16 if the person is working or training.[26][27]

Tasmania has for decades had their school leaving age set at 15, with a requirement to be participating in education or training until age 16 recently enacted as of 2007 according to the Department of Education.[28][3]

The Western Australian government is pushing the minimum school leaving age up from 15 in 2006 to 16 in January 2007 and to 17 in January 2008.

Victoria changed their school leaving age from 15 to 16 in 2006.

The minimum ages for leaving school (but not necessarily education) are currently the following:

  • Northern Territory - 15[29]
  • ACT - 15[29]
  • South Australia - 16[30]
  • Queensland - 15[29]
  • Victoria - 16[29]
  • Western Australia - 17[29]
  • New South Wales - 17[31]
  • Tasmania - 16[32]

Some states such as Queensland allow for students to leave conventional schooling at 15 if going into full-time employment, obtaining an apprenticeship or completing a tertiary education course at approved institutions (I.e. TAFE) (From 1 January 2006 the Queensland minimum school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 years or when a student has completed Year 10, whichever comes first.)


  1. ^ "Upper Compulsory School Age". National Conference of State Legislators. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b Knesset raises school dropout age to 18 Haaretz, 18 July 2007 Archived February 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d School: leaving it too early Online Opinion, 1 September 2005 Archived January 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Contribution to EIRO thematic feature on Youth and work - case of France Archived 2012-08-02 at archive.today EIRO, 5 March 2007
  5. ^ a b c d e Fahey, Tony (July 1992). "State, family and compulsory schooling in Ireland". Economic & Social Review. Economic & Social Research Institute. 23 (4): 369–395. hdl:2262/66539. ISSN 0012-9984. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06.
  6. ^ "Report of the Royal Commission of inquiry into primary education". 1870. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Report of the Vice-Regal Committee of Enquiry into Primary Education (Ireland) 1918; volume I: report". 1919. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  8. ^ "School Attendance Act, 1926, Section 4". Irish Statute Book. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Legislation Directory: 1926 acts affected". Irish Statute Book. pp. 17: School Attendance Act, 1926. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  10. ^ "School Attendance Act, 1936, Section 2". Irish Statute Book. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  11. ^ Hyland, Áine; Milne, Kenneth (1992). Irish Educational Documents. NAIRTL. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0-9509289-2-0. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  12. ^ "S.I. No. 105/1972 - School Attendance Act, 1926 (Extension of Application) Order, 1972". Irish Statute Book. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  13. ^ "School attendance". Citizens Information. Ireland: Citizens Information Board. 2 January 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Education (Welfare) Act, 2000". Irish Statute Book. §§2, 17. Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Education (Welfare) Bill, 1999: Second Stage". Seanad Éireann debates. 19 May 1999. pp. Vol.159 No.10 p.8 c.757. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 6 January 2014. The Bill, when enacted, will raise the school leaving age from 15 years to 16 years or the completion of three years' post-primary education, whichever is the later.
  16. ^ Title of good practice: Basic skills for minor apprentices European Civil Society Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ An Overview of the Education System in Poland - SQA Archived April 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Spain RightToEducation.org, 12 November 2001 Archived July 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Rebel pupils 'moving to violence and delinquency'". The Glasgow Herald. 8 October 1973. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  20. ^ "An Evening Times Special Inquiry: The Reluctant Year". Evening Times. 27 August 1974. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  21. ^ "The reluctant learners of 15 and above who are jeopardising the secondary school system". Evening Times. 28 August 1974. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  22. ^ "School is 'wasted' for many". Evening Times. 4 October 1974. p. 7. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  23. ^ BBC - Schools Parents - What happens after the age of 16? Archived January 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Under-18s who leave school to be fined The Independent, 23 March 2007
  25. ^ NSW Govt considers raising school leaving age ABC News, 17 November 2006 Archived October 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ MP moots change to school-leaving age ABC News, 10 March 2006 Archived October 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "New school leaving age for South Australia". Premier Mike Rann. 2007-05-02. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
  28. ^ http://www.education.tas.gov.au/school/educators/guaranteeing-futures/requiringparticipation Department of Education Guaranteeing Futures legislation 16 July 2008 Archived October 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-12. Retrieved 2016-06-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Age to leave school".
  31. ^ http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/leavingschool/schoolleaveage/faqs.php[dead link]
  32. ^ "Age to leave school".