If the school leaving age was 14, then i think most of the people who do leave at 14 would go on to get no qualifications, severely curtailing their prospects in later life. There are always exceptions however, but i feel it would create a kind of two-tier society, those with qualifications and those without.
Perhaps a better system would be to remove all examinations until 17 and 18, hopefully by that age, people would start to take responsibility for themselves more rather than at 16.
Also, every child should be able to get 5 Cs, the National Curriculum is set that way for a reason, and frankly in some subjects the C boundry is almost a farce, eg, need less that 20% in Maths, or 30% in French. And to people who say that some children may not be accademically inclined and so won't get 5 GCSEs, getting 5 Cs hardly means that your an academic, it doesn't even mean your competent at a subject.
Most British people probably are to over-qualified to work there, hence the reliance on immigration.
I think the central problem with many exams - a problem not limited to the UK - is that they're not so much about testing people's rudimentary abilities, and are instead a test of how well you can jump through hoops for the exam board.
Of course it's a positive thing, how is it good if a society looks down on an individual on the basis of academic achievement. Surely that is horribly intolerant if as a society you hold those who fail academically in contempt. Failing of course is never positive, however judging someone's character purely because of it is wrong.
First of all, how i don't remember when it became "disgusting" to judge someones character on more than just their academic success. Secondly, how does failing at school mean that somebody will "fail" life, and not lead a fulfilling or successful life. For example, Richard Branson performed extremely poorly at school, yet according to you he is a failure. Furthermore, you don't seem to understand that even if you have no qualifications, you are more than able to earn a living wage in the UK at least, you won't need to be on benefits for your whole life.