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 148.

    128. ZHsquad
    Make it so that only very smart people can become teachers. I've seen the people who are becoming teachers.


    Have you watched that program tough young teachers?

    You can be as smart as you like but without the ability to engage with the children you're teaching it'll be futile because they just won't learn.

    Ironically I don't think that's a skill that can be easily taught...

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    4 Minutes ago
    Make it so that only very smart people can become teachers. I've seen the people who are becoming teachers. It's a joke.

    I think you should look at the stats before making that sort of comment - the majority of people on PGCE courses now have a First or Upper Second degree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    @133 Aunie Left.

    Speaking from a business / employee perspective

    I would be quite happy if they had a BASIC grasp of English and Maths.

    Many do not AND they don't really want to work hard if they cant (ie manual labour)

    Maybe if you offered more than the minimum wage you'd get a better calibre of applicants!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    As long as Michael Gove remains responsible for Education it is going nowhere other than backwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Maybe if teachers weren't pressured into teaching students to pass exams and were allowed to actually teach something. Many teachers talents are being surpressed by government teaching plan telling them how to divide an hours lesson to the minute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    The whole point about education is not just to teach children the 3'R's but to also to teach them how to learn so they pick up new skills readily.

    Employers shouldn't see school leavers as 'off-the-shelf' products but raw materials that will need to be lovingly moulded into efficient and effective employees with a good work-life balance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    What is this obsession with the economy, the economy, the economy??!

    Why can't education go back to being about youngsters improving themselves as people, learning more about the world and other people and expanding their minds rather than being forced down the road of becoming future job fodder??

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    @126 geoffg

    That would be a legal matter. The continued studying of Welsh should not interfere with other studies, and from what I understand, does not. RE should not be imposed at all, since it's a conscientious matter.

    Have your nieces looked at their options thoroughly? If they really want to do the Sciences, then I can't imagine the stumbling block you mention, realistically being there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    " if i was to employ a pasterer to work with me their plastering skills would be of more importance than their spelling skills!" And you wouldn't challenge the fact that if he can't be bothered to fill in an application form with English instead of "text" speak, or was just sloopy it might also apply to his skills as a plasterer ? i.e sloopy and lazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    "CBI failing young people of this country." Discuss.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Despite its bloated guaranteed income and droves unionised employees, our education system is failing our kids.

    Parents aren't idiots, incapable of deciding for themselves who a good educator is. Parents should be able to "opt out" of state schools, and be free to choose to reward those educators who actually deliver.

    Teachers, parents and children all deserve better than a failed monopoly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    If teachers were allowed to teach rather than filling in forms and meeting pointless government targets, then maybe we'd see improvements in our education system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Are teachers such sheep that they fail to stand up to this constant political meddling ? shame on them if true, it makes you wonder about the intelligence and integrity of the majority of teachers, perhaps the teachers of today are the result of our underperforming education system of the last 30 years, and therefore not the answer to its woes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Rather than running teachers into the ground, forcing them to work every waking hour trying to hit targets with endless admin, how about we give them some help and support instead.

    Free up their time so they can regain their enthusiasm for teaching and devise exciting engaging lessons. Produce quality resources and record videos of the best teachers in the country to inspire them. It's not hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.


    The truth is that 'businesses' are trying to get the training they used to pay for done by schools. It's about time 'businesses' started training people again.


    Speaking from a business / employee perspective

    I would be quite happy if they had a BASIC grasp of English and Maths.

    Many do not AND they don't really want to work hard if they cant (ie manual labour)


  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    We view this subject from the wrong angle.

    Viewing from outside the box, I can see the politicians skewing the education system to benefit their (POLITICAL) model of how they view the education system should be, rather than what is best for pupils.

    Mr Gove sees it from (Cons) business sides where business is right and the (Labour) education system is wrong. Labour get in everything Con is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    What was wrong with the education that we used to get? It performed the simple task of giving us the tools to understand the World and to communicate with it as we wished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    So long as there's a Tory government children of hard working parents won't stand a chance. Tories are stuck in the Victorian era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I am retired now, but when I compare the standards in business today with the standards demanded in the past the difference is difficult to believe. It appears most people have lost the ability to write a good business letter. Companies and government offices rely almost totally on "stock letters" which look awful. Most letters contain a list of errors not tolerated 30 years ago!!


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