Thousands of teenagers fail in GCSE English and maths
Tens of thousands of teenagers in England do not have at least a C-grade at GCSE in English and maths by the time they are 18, new figures suggest.
And most who do not get a good grade in these key subjects by 16 then drop them.
The figures are revealed in new government statistics.
From now on, all teenagers will have to continue studying maths and English if they do not get at least a C-grade.
The statistics, which have been published for the first time and are described as "experimental" by government officials, show that in 2009-10, about one in three young people (220,000) had not gained a grade A* to C in English by the age of 16.
Of these, about 34,000 (15%), went on to re-take the GCSE after 16. About half of those then got at least a C.
The figures are similar for maths.
Schools minister David Laws said: "English and maths are what employers demand before all other subjects - if young people want to get on in life, they must be able to show they have good literacy and numeracy.
"These figures expose the vast number of young people allowed to give up these subjects after so nearly achieving the level employers demand.
"With just a bit more teaching, these students could have achieved the grades that would make all the difference to their job prospects."
The figures come days after a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said literacy and numeracy rates of England's 16- to 24-year-olds were among the lowest in the developed world.
Among 16-year-olds in England, only six in 10 achieve the government's minimum target of five good GCSEs including English and maths.
Under changes introduced last month, teenagers now have to stay in some form of education or training until they are 17, although this may be work-based.
This is due to rise to 18 in 2015.
Ministers say they are writing to 12 local councils who are not tracking whether 16- to 18-year-olds are in education or training.
New figures show that nationally, 88% of 16- and 17-year-olds were in education or training in June, up 1% on 2012.
But the government said there were differences between areas and some councils were poor at tracking what many teenagers of this age group were doing.