Having read Jane Merrick’s article about Tristram Hunt’s wish for “Skills Skills Skills” in this Sunday’s Independent, I can’t help think we are missing something.
Whilst fundamentally I completely agree that the education system is not preparing the majority of young people for work, I think we need a more considered approach which appreciates and nurtures the skills of every child not just the academically able.
There is a cohort of learners in secondary schools across the country who are consistently being let down by the present system. They do not fit well into the highly marketised and academic structure past and present governments have fostered.
These children are the most troubled and sometimes the most trouble. They become the NEET statistics, not because they are work-shy or violent and aggressive but because the education system does not meet their needs.
Schools and teachers are not the problem. They do a frankly amazing job often against the odds which are stacked against them; too few resources, large classes and too much needless assessment.
The new government, whoever it happens to be must start recognising some stark truths. Our education system is far from “fit for all”. At Foundation Futures our Business Partners often express confusion as to what young people are being prepared for; is it for work ? or is it to purely pass an exam? They all say the same thing. They recruit for attitude, train for skills. They look not always for qualifications, but for resilience, flexibility, a strong work ethic and good communication skills. None of these feature on the National Curriculum.
Teachers are battling to remain creative within ever increasing constraints. Education for joy and for education’s sake is no longer an option. Every smallest activity has to be measured and justified against criteria.
If we can’t afford to educate for educations sake, for the joy of knowledge; can’t we at least prepare ALL young people for the world, to support themselves and their families?
Together with our Business Partners we support vulnerable, at risk young people find out what they can do, instead of what they can’t in creative and varied learning environments. One thing is for certain, change is constant. Education needs to adapt. Not just for the majority, but for every single young person so they can achieve meaningful and fulfilling lives.
The next government needs to consult with business and teachers. It needs to consider change and the need for alternative pathways which are actively valued. University is not the holy grail. We need skills at all levels, GCSEs might not be the best way to measure them.