All under-18-year-olds would have to be in some form of education or training from 2014 under Labour policy released by Prime Minister Helen Clark today.
Helen Clark was announcing some of the details of the Government's Schools Plus programme, which she outlined in general form for the first time in January.
National leader John Key said it was a re-announcement of a 2002 policy.
Schools Plus is the Government's plan to have every youth in some form of training until the age of 18.
That would mean youths who left school would have to either go into other training, or if they took up a job would have to do that in conjunction with some form of apprenticeship or qualification.
As the initial phase of the programme, the Government has introduced legislation axing school leaving exemptions for those under 16.
Helen Clark today said under Schools Plus the school leaving age would remain at 16, but in 2011 an "education and training age" of 17 would be introduced.
That age would move to 18 in 2014.
The Labour leader announced $40 million in funding to support several associated measures.
The current school leaving age is 16, but large numbers of younger students have been granted exemptions in recent years so they could move into jobs or other training.
Mr Key said: "The fact that Helen Clark is making the same announcement just weeks out from the 2008 election is an admission of failure under her watch over the past nine years.
"Currently around one in five school students doesn't gain a qualification by the time they leave school, more than a third of students leave school without having gained a Level 2 or higher qualification, and nearly 13,000 teenagers are receiving a government benefit. Why should we believe Helen Clark will get to her 2014 goal this time around?"
He said National's "Youth Guarantee" would give young New Zealanders a "universal education entitlement" for all 16 and 17-year-olds.
Young people who are not working and who fail to take up this new option, would not be eligible to receive a benefit.
- NZPA, NZ HERALD STAFF