By 2015 education and training to age 18 will be compulsory
A record number of 16 to 18-year-olds are taking part in education, work or training in England, figures suggest.
Government statisticians estimate the number not in education, employment or training (Neet) has fallen to a seven-year low of 9.4% of the age group.
This means there are still nearly 190,000 "Neets". And just over a fifth of the age group is not in any form of education or work-based learning.
Following a change in the law, everyone under 18 will have to be by 2015.
The figures, which are estimates relating to the end of 2007, come a few months after the government said it planned to make education or work-based training compulsory in England for 17-year-olds from 2013 and 18-year-olds from 2015.
Westminster Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was really encouraging news that the number of young people not in employment, education or training had fallen again and that participation rates were at a record level.
"By 2015 all young people will stay in education or training until they are at least 18 and these latest figures show we are making good progress to ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential."
Schools Minister Jim Knight said if the participation age were not raised, it would be the most disadvantaged who missed out.
Since 2007 what is known as the September Guarantee has aimed to ensure that all youngsters are offered a suitable place in learning post-16.
Ministers say this has played an important role in progress on participation for 16-year-olds.
The government is also hailing good progress with 17 and 18-year-olds.
It said that some 7,000 more young people aged 18 are participating in education or training that in 2006.
The compulsion approach is not being taken elsewhere in the UK.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Skills for Scotland, the Scottish Government's lifelong skills strategy, sets out our commitment to encourage more young people to stay in education and training post 16.
"However, the Scottish Government does not consider that raising the compulsory leaving age in Scotland is the best way to deliver this change.
"Ministers have made their opposition to such a change clear, both prior to being in government and subsequently.
"Our focus is on supporting young people aged 16 to 19 who need more choices and more chances not in legislating to force them to engage in education or training."
The statistics are also counted differently. Scotland differentiates between those who are unemployed but seeking employment or training (10.8% in 2007), and unemployed but not seeking employment or training (1.5%).