Education 'fails to deliver skills for global success'

school exam England's secondary school curriculum needs a "radical long-term overhaul", the advisory group says

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England's education system is failing to meet the country's long-term economic needs and requires a radical overhaul, a report warns.

A group of academics and business leaders says a new cross-party body should set long-term educational goals protected from the electoral cycle.

They also want more emphasis on team working and problem-solving, and a baccalaureate system at A-level.

But the Department for Education said it was equipping pupils for the future.

"The secondary curriculum must support the economic strategy of the country" is the opening sentence of the first of 13 recommendations made in the report.

It calls for a new independent body to oversee the development of the curriculum in England, made up of teachers, employers, academics and representatives from the political parties.

It says the body would provide "consistency" and be able to take a strategic view rather than just concentrating on the electoral cycle.

The group points out that, on average, education secretaries have remained in post for two years over the past 25-year period.

'Emotional empathy'

The report, Making Education Work, follows a six-month review of England's education system by an independent advisory group, made up of prominent business leaders and chaired by an academic, Prof Sir Roy Anderson.

Start Quote

Over the last 25 years and longer there have been multiple initiatives from different secretaries of state which have not achieved the necessary improvement in educational standards”

End Quote Sir Michael Rake BT chairman and CBI president

Among its wide-ranging conclusions is a recommendation for a broader curriculum at A-level, which should be gradually changed to a European-style baccalaureate system to include the study of English, maths and the Extended Project qualification.

The group wants more emphasis on "team working, emotional maturity, empathy and other interpersonal skills", which it says are "as important as proficiency in English and mathematics in ensuring young people's employment prospects".

Sir Roy Anderson emphasised the need for a long-term view, saying: "Successful businesses have clear objectives and goals which they pursue consistently over time, yet changes in government make it difficult to achieve this for education".

"This new independent advisory group on the curriculum will build on the current government's efforts to bring in a more diverse range of experts and experience into the education system, and create a long-term vision for us to work together towards the interests of young people," he added.

'Apolitical approach'

Sir Michael Rake, the chairman of BT who is also CBI president, is a member of the group.

He believes the current system has failed to meet the country's economic needs.

"Over the last 25 years and longer there have been multiple initiatives from different secretaries of state which have not achieved the necessary improvement in educational standards," he said.

"It is therefore time to establish a cross-party apolitical approach to education to move on from our narrow outdated focus with A-levels, and to improve on the other competencies necessary for success, including the fundamental need to improve the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, which are at an unacceptably low level."

But the Department for Education said its "new curriculum" had been developed after "extensive consultation with a wide range of experts".

"Alongside wider reform to GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications this will mean young people leave school with the skills and qualifications they need to secure a job, apprenticeship or university place," a spokesperson added.

"As this week's results show, our plan to fix the education system is working and helping ensure all our children have a secure and prosperous future."

The DfE also points out that its new Tech Level qualifications have been endorsed by leading international companies, and lead to recognised professions including engineering, accounting, IT and construction.

The Association of School and College Leaders, which represents head teachers, gave the report an enthusiastic welcome.

The association's general secretary, Brian Lightman, said it had been calling for a similar approach for some time.

"Countries that do consistently well in international comparisons, like Singapore, have a long-term plan for their education service that rises above political considerations and is not driven by the electoral cycle," he said, "and there is no reason why England should not be able to do the same."

It was also welcomed by Mary Bousted from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"Teachers have long despaired of politicians trying to make their mark by turning the curriculum 180-degrees every few years," she said.

She also welcomed the report's stress on the importance of empathy and emotional maturity.

"Education should not just be about turning out effective employees, but also about developing young people to have caring relationships and to be questioning citizens."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Far too many people making for too much money out of introducing "initiatives" - heads, teachers , advisers, " consultants" - all swarming up the greasy pole, jumping on and off bandwagons and in the process dismantling a system which worked well. My parents left grammar schools in 1916; both were more literate and numerate than today's "graduates".

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    We have so many kids leaving school who lack the basic skills of reading, writing and basic maths. This is a sad indictment of our society and educational establishments. You don't need vast resources to teach the basics, just paper, pens and a teacher who puts the effort in with a class of a managable size. Rocket science it is not, unless it's a science class, than it might be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Education !? That went out years ago when league tables were introduced. As school money is based on the number of pupils who can achieve grades in selected subjects all schools now do is train pupils to pass exams.
    Plus business should be training young people to do the actual jobs but that costs money and all businesses are interested in are short-term profits NOT long-term investment in people

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    These ''Business Leaders'' would do well to heed some of their own advice and invested in their own Company's in-house training

    20 years ago, a well run Business would invest time in its' people AFTER they left school... Management Development, Practical up-skilling, and provide continual support during their careers...

    A time when a Company meant something to its own employees of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    The biggest issue I see is still the basics, not these soft skills. The standard of basic English & Maths, as seen by the decline in our position in the international league tables, is just not good enough, even among graduates.

    Too many crazy ideas from educationists that haven't worked.

    It's a disgrace.


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