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 508.

    It's time to end the sacred cow status of the guaranteed incomes of a union infected workforce producing substandard graduates.

    Demand the state system compete for parental choice to justify its income. If it's as successful as its droves of unionised staff claim, I'm sure it'll succeed ;)

    Give parents choice via an "education voucher", and respect them enough to choose. We all deserve better :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    I come from Wales we are the worst area of the UK educationally according to the international PISA results, it really comes at no surprise what so ever. This is because here in Wales, the amount of money and resources spent on NEW Welsh language schools in the previously mostly English speaking South has stripped all other schools of resources, yes the language is important but so is our future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    Education 'failing economic needs', as a headline rather puts the cart before the horse. If you look at the overall situation, it is the economy that is failing education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    #465: "Just imagine where your atheistic "science" would be without the Christian concept of absolute objective truth?"

    Since science is not concerned with "absolute objective truth" - indeed, the scientific method is predicated on the understanding that no "truth" can be either absolute or objective - science without interference from religious dogma seems to work very well, thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Education failing economic needs? What about the environment - you can't eat money.

    Politicians often talk patronisingly about securing sustainable long term economic growth. What qualified them for their job. Nothing based on the consumption of finite resources can be sustainable in the long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    476. Jo Anton
    Gove needs to scrap his new elitist exams and begin to value manual work equally with academia.

    Upon analysis, that remark is quite illogical. Academia provides the ideas, inventions, processes, etc. that, in turn, provide work that requires manual operations. If your reverse the sense of that . . . it simply doesn't work. Hence, the idea of 'equality' here is a false concept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    @465. Philip Iszatt
    "Just imagine where your atheistic "science" would be without the Christian concept of absolute objective truth?"

    Copernicus and Galileo must take great comfort from that statement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    (Con 499) The heart-breaking thing is that our government continues and extends this ill practice to abuse inventors. The innovation vouchers by the government business department are not allowed to spend on inventors but force to spend on other irreverent academics. I feel very sorry how our government treats UK inventors. They will be judged by history for harming our inventors’ careers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    371. DSA
    There has been a downward spiral in standards and useful skills ever since the old 11+/Grammar school system was dismantled.
    Time to return to a system that worked.

    Quite correct! But it is a tragedy that that fact is either not known or not accepted by so many here. Moreover, that non-recognition speaks volumes for this topic . . . sadly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    (Con 497) The entire innovation fund to universities has been abused. There was no penny being spending on inventors. The funding was stolen by HOD and the management team. They insist to put their names on lecturers’ inventions and claimed the university owning the patents. If inventors were not willing to cooperate and let go their inventions, the university would make them redundant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    Educational philosophies and policies are a fashion show for politicians, swapping and changing with each season.

    All mammals educate, the activity predates civilisation. It should be a balance of life skills (employment) AND leisure skills so we can enjoy our time on earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    There are too many dirty politics in universities. Universities have made quite a few international patent-holder lecturers redundant to save money for themselves for the past ten years. To conduct such an evil act, the universities have already proven themselves redundant and damaging to our economy. Therefore, government should not waste any more public funding on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    @494 & 495

    The people who knock teachers are those who have never done it and probably wouldn't last five minutes at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    494 Morgan

    I have a daily insight and update from my wife who suffers the political interference all too regularly. There are thousands of good teachers who don't get the credit or opportunity they (you) deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    @Trymachine Thanks you so much for your comment. So many people seem to think that teachers are lazy incompetents who don’t know what the real world is like. In reality they are dedicated individuals who understand the educational process and at times the world for them far more real and haunting than you see in most lines of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    The whole education system would be significantly more effective if it was taken out of the hands of politicians and left to the educational experts - they're called teachers - and funded based on need.

    The resources should be determined by an independent body and similarly the governance of the curriculum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    Particularly damaging is the use of league tables and pass statistics. These are artificially driven up by managers and teachers who fear the consequences of their students failing. We don't need a return to the past, we need a complete rethink of the role that our unqualified, self serving, egotistical politicians are allowed to play.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    479.Gael Bage
    2 Hours ago
    Creativity is important even for mathematicians and scientists, all our great scientists and mathematicians had a strong creative streak., Today you ignore creativity and concntrate on the basics -


    Creativity is not much use to those who lack the tools to express that creativity effectively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    @mainsail67 I’m not sure how you get “Teachers have such a sense of entitlement” from the post you are replying to. As for rest, society cannot exist without a well-rounded people and business it not the country’s only source of wealth. The country needs free thinkers, academics, artists, business people and young people who just want to get a job. No path should be valued over the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    So long as education in Britain is widely defined as broad, balanced and open for the elite whilst little more than a narrow, unbalanced, economy and social problem related curriculum for the rest, Britain will remain poor neighbours to those countries for whom a full unfettered education for all children comes first.


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