The X Factor has lowered the age limit for those auditioning for the show – with the hope that they’ll find more talented stars such as Liam Payne.
Liam was a 14-year-old contestant in 2008 and made it through to the judges’ houses round – he returned two years later and joined One Direction.
“The X Factor has had a long history of teenage contestants really shining on the show,” a source told The Mirror.
“Look at the likes of Liam Payne who was 14 when he first auditioned. That experience really stood him in good stead when he returned in 2010.
“There are so many talented youngsters out there.”
The age limit was lowered to 14 before, but it was Cheryl Cole who persuaded them to bring it back to age 16 in 2015.
Cheryl said of one young act: “I don’t think a 14-year-old needs that pressure on his shoulders. He’s got to do his GCSEs.”
“In Cheryl’s opinion, anyone under the age of 16 shouldn’t be on this show,” added Simon.
A source explained: “Cheryl thinks the most important thing for a 14 year old to do is their schoolwork.
“Simon knows there is a lot of potential out there and wants to widen the net. He is conscious of the fact that the younger singers need to be relaxed and not have too much pressure on them.”
The singing competition has previously seen changes to other age categories too. In 2010, they replaced the over-25s category with an over-28s category.
In that year, Nicole Scherzinger persuaded them to make the change because the quality of older singers was so high. A source said at the time: “With some of the best acts being in their mid-20s this year, they wanted to make sure they didn’t lose them.
“The judges believe this will strengthen the competition and talent.”
The judging panel for the next series of The X Factor has jet to be revealed. Last year, Simon was joined on the panel by Sharon Osborne, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh.
Nicole recently revealed that she’d been asked to return, but may want to concentrate on her own music instead. “I don’t know yet, we’ll see,” she said. “Last year I did a lot of TV and loved it, but I didn’t spend time with the artist in me.”
The open auditions for the next series of The X Factor have already started taking place across the UK. Anyone aged under 18 will need the permission of their parent or guardian to apply.