They are the Kevin and Perry generation - bored teenagers, with mobile phones and expensive trainers, whose burning ambition is to leave school as soon as they can. They don't like school, and the last people they respect are their teachers. Long gone are the days when teenagers displayed any deference to "Sir" or "Miss".
Anxiety about the way teachers relate to their pupils - and just how many teenagers are being failed by the system - has led the Government to consider reforms to secondary schooling. Last week, the Amy Gehring case focused the spotlight even more intently on teenage rs and the pastoral care offered by teachers. The Canadian teacher was accused and acquitted of having sex with under-age boys, but the court heard how Gehring developed friendships with her pupils that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. It led an angry Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, to order an inquiry into how the biology teacher was allowed to continue to teach after accusations about her first emerged.
Ms Morris has set her sights on secondary schooling. Not only does she want to stop anything like the Gehring case from ever happening again but she wants to rethink education as a whole for this age group. One in four British teenagers leave at 16. Some get jobs, but almost as many again go straight on the dole, and studies have found that serious social and health problems can develop if youngsters drop out early.
For many, traditional schooling in academic subjects is irrelevant. With few alternatives to endless days of double maths, Tudor history and 19th-century literature, getting out seems the only option, however limited the prospects. The Education Act of 1944 promised a different generation of bored teenagers who didn't warm to academic studies a revolution in vocational training. It didn't happen. Now Ms Morris is promising another "vocational renaissance" as part of a shake-up of 14-19 education aimed at ending the drain of talent and potential from the school system. A senior source at the Department for Education and Skills said: "The reason we're doing this is that in this country, when you get to 16, we ask, `Are you staying on?' as if it's almost a surprise. In the States they ask: `Are you dropping out?' as if that's the surprise. We want to change that culture."
The aim is threefold: to equip school leavers with the training they need to be part of the future workforce; to open up opportunities for young people to secure lucrative jobs in industry and IT, for example; and to stem …