It seems that nothing is ever good enough in today's society; we're a nation obsessed by perfection and not even the best seems acceptable anymore.

GCSEs are an example of this fixation. Not only are there news reports seemingly daily about how easy they are, but it seems they count for nothing when 16-year-olds decide to venture out into the working world.

Coming from a school where hairdressing and catering were offered as vocational courses alongside more traditional subjects, I can see the value and importance of offering a wide spectrum of qualifications as many people choose different career paths after compulsory education. However, employers are now turning away teenagers straight out of school on the grounds that they don't know enough, or they're too young or they simply don't look the part.

But when are we supposed to learn all of these additional skills for the world of work? From reading the papers, it seems pupils are working their socks off at school to be met with disgruntled employers who sack them because they turn up for work five minutes late or their shirt isn't tucked in. After a six-hour school day that can sometimes include double history and mathematics, when do they expect kids to learn the protocol of the work place? Is actually gaining knowing and being good at the job worth anything anymore?

Even getting a summer job can prove unnecessarily difficult. The competition between teens to get the last place behind the burger counter has sky rocketed, which isn't helped by the fact parents always seem so keen to remind us about the various jobs they had at our age.

Is actually gaining knowing and being good at the job worth anything anymore?

Young people can't be expected to be at the same standard as adults when they leave school. It seems 16-year-olds are just thrown in at the deep end and employers have little or no understanding that kids are just being kids. It worries me that school-leavers are being forced to grow into adults prematurely. They want to look back on their lives and realise they enjoyed themselves instead of thinking they slaved away doing full time hours from the age of 16 to 60.

The negative feedback from kids leaving school at 16 to find work is hardly reassuring when I know I'll be in that position in the not-so-distant future. The demand for excellence is so great that I feel nervous turning up to babysitting jobs without a masters degree from Oxford.

At 16, some people are a heck of a lot more mature than they're given credit for. Sure, you'll still get the odd few who like to throw bottles at pigeons and watch the Cartoon Network, but maybe if employers invested just a little bit more time and had a little bit more faith in today's secondary-school kids, they would be more than just pleasantly surprised.

This article was written by Charlotte Lytton, 16, and was originally published in The Guardian in 2007.