Local businesses must get more closely engaged with schools to help them improve standards.  The need to raise standards in key subjects such as English and maths was highlighted by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Director General David Frost.

Responding to comments made today by Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mr Frost said: "Our education system is failing the majority of young people, and businesses are forced to recruit people without basic skills.

"Only 44 per cent of 16-year-olds leave school with five GCSEs at grade A-C including English and maths.  As a result, large numbers of school-leavers born in 1990, leaving school in 2006, will be the economic underclass in 2016.

"Youngsters leaving school now are our future workforce.  Businesses have a responsibility to get into their local schools and work with them, especially as the Government is focusing on broadening the curriculum and introducing vocational diplomas. 

"Involving businesses at a local level could be a key driver in raising standards and creating a better understanding of the world of work."