Too many young people are falling out of education and failing to land a job or go into training, according to the chairman of a newly-formed education forum in Bradford.

Professor Donna Pankhurst said that while a large number of pupils were staying at school after 16, she was concerned for the future of Bradford’s economy if those who dropped out of school were neglected.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Public Forum for Education in City Hall yesterday, Bradford University’s Prof Pankhurst said: “It’s a very serious concern nationally and it’s a big concern in Bradford.

“It’s absolutely vital we act now, these people are the workforce of the future, Bradford’s economy depends on it.

“It is a greater concern for Bradford because we have more young people than any other district in England.

“We have got fantastic potential to generate economic growth but we need to give our young people the right skills.”

The public meeting gave visitors the chance to discuss how the Council can support the majority of young people in the district who leave school without achieving the national standard of five GCSE A*-C grades including English and Maths.

It was the first of a series of meetings to be held by the Forum throughout the year to discuss education issues.

It replaces the Education Strategy Group which hosted topical debates last year.

At each session participants split into groups and record their thoughts on the issues of the day.

These are then compiled in a report to be fed back to relevant Council officers, who will provide a response for the following meeting.

Guest speakers are invited to address the forum, and Maggie Peel, the Council’s 14-19 lead officer, Paul Johnson, of the youth service, and Craig Williams and John McDermott, of the careers service, took their turn yesterday.

Councillor Michael Kelly, the Council’s executive member for education, who attended, said he hoped parents, and anyone else with an interest in education, would contribute to the forum in the future.

“When you consider that everything that we are required to do as a local authority is to put the child at the centre of every consultation, then the child and young person is crucial in all communication.

“When parents come along they are acting to represent that child,” he said.

“Unless, and until, the democratically elected leaders, other officers and groups listen to us, as members of the public, then we can’t hold them to account.”