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High time that the parlous state of our education system was highlighted. The past 9 years have seen no improvements but for the continued interference and meddling from central government.
The socialist dogma of equality needs to be junked and streaming brought in to ensure that the best is made of each individuals abilities.
Whether any-one has the will remains to be seen. But it is another nail in NuLab's coffin, exposing yet another area of their incompetence.

When you say Britain you mean England . Tory's are amongst the worst for denying reality .
This endless rabbiting on about a place called " Britain " is offensive . What I take it that you think you mean is Great Britain a unitary state set up by the Act of Union 1707 , but since the Scotland Act 1998 ( which set up an independant parliament for Scotland within GB ) now decaying fast under its internal constitutional contradictions .
Most of the skills/ jobs / educational concerns which the article refers to as " Britain " are in fact relevant only to England - Wales , NI and Scotland deal with these things themselves . Why don't you stop trying to pretend that the old British settup is still in existence , face facts and clarify this reality in the minds of your selves and the contributors .

"Just 28% of Britons are qualified to apprentice, skilled craft, and technician levels, compared to 51% in France and 65% in Germany".

This has to be a deeply worrying statistic highlighted by John Hayes and it has its origins in the blurring of the old distinction that was made between the "academic" and the "vocational", a distinction I have tried to make in my contribution to 100 Policies to be published this week.
The word "education" comes from the Latin educare ("to draw out" that which is latent in an individual), whereas skills need "vocational" training.
Blair, in his desire to see 50% of young people going on to Further Education has not distinguished between the two strands, which have become even more blurred.
The need now is to restore the distinction but to put the two onto an equal basis.
Given the parlous state of much management in the country at the moment - particularly in government - I would include management in vocational training.
As John Hayes also points out, literacy plays a fundamental role in underpinning any vocational skills.

The LSC has over £9bn a year thrown at it in order to address England's skill issue. Not getting great value for money are we?

Then again, if they will bribe youngsters with £30 a week to stay in education it'll soon end up being poured down the drain on drugs, fast food and nights out. Call me cynical, but those on the Educational Maintenance Allowance have a much more luxurious time at college compared to those that do not.

Part of the solution, I think, is to make each college of further education an independent trust, cut the LSC budget drastically and use better ways than cash bribes to encourage young people to stay on in education.

England, Scotland - the problems may not be identical but they are similar:


"Failing pupils to learn trades at new schools"

"Outlining the scheme ahead of his speech, the First Minister said Scottish education had got it wrong for 30 years by forcing all pupils to undertake academic subjects.

He said: "We now have a system which records achievement, but the system has not been successful or motivating for a significant minority of kids because youngsters are being pushed into choosing eight academic options, sitting French when they can't even speak English for example. We need a system that gives youngsters the motivation to learn skills." "

Mike Rouse, if you think that £30 buys drugs, fast food and nights out - you need to get out more. ;-)

The culprit is centralisation. To move decision-making from a local to higher level there always has to be a really powerful argument and a method to reverse the decision if it has unexpected results.

As I have written before, apprenticeship schemes worked very well until central government appointed itself as overseer. The inevitable paperwork that followed forced many of the smaller employers to stop training – and reduced the number and diversity diversity of training places.

When it comes to schools – our private schools seem to function very well all by themselves. It is beyond me that central government is able to justify its role in education. What makes Alan Johnson, Ruth Kelly, etc, believe that they know best how a school should be run? All we have is a state system where their politically driven decisions can ruin education nationwide. At least a bad head teacher can only cock-up their own school.

Other than who foots the bill, state schools should be as autonomous as private schools.

David Belchamber, do you not mean 50% go to Higher Education?

Exceedingly bright children are held back in classes with children who are not so clever. And those who are not book-smart will be turned off to learning by the academic subjects in which they are made to feel inadequate by being in the same class as the intelligent kid. Streaming allows each child to learn to thier abilities and feel that they are really doing something worthwhile in school, instead of failing maths and passing 'media studies'.

I think the most worrying statistics are:

".... at least 4 million adults will still not have the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old child and 12 million would not have equivalent numeracy skills."

because obviously the 3 R's are the foundations for further study. OK, so maybe in the remote past an illiterate apprentice could watch and copy his master and eventually become a master craftsman himself, but those days are long gone.

Taking the first statistic, 4 million is about 9% of the adult population.

Glancing at a chart I have here, about 5% of the population has an IQ below 75 and would be described as "very dull", another 4% would be between 75 and 80 and would fall in the category of "dull". Classically an adult with the measured mental ability of the average 11 year old would have been assigned an IQ around 70, and about 3% of the population is at or below that level.

So on the rough basis of intrinsic intellectual ability one might expect 1.3 million adults with literacy skills at or below the level of the average 11 year old. If there are 4 million, that means that 2.7 million have effectively been "dumbed down" - ie, they are not performing up to their intrinsic potential - and I suspect that in most cases that process will have started during their primary school years.

I know there's a lot of controversy about IQ etc, but it still gives an idea of how much could be achieved if we could just ensure that every child got the kind of education which suited him or her best.

James @ 12.08: Yes, you are quite correct; my apologies and thanks for the correction.

"Other than who foots the bill, state schools should be as autonomous as private schools".

I agree with you, Mark (@ 12.07); I have spent a lot of my life working in and for independent schools and there is little doubt that, when the tories introduced grant maintained schools, it very quickly solved a lot of problems.

When comparing private and state, too much emphasis is placed on (i) the matter of fees and (ii) selection. Somebody has to pay, in either case, so it doesn't really matter whether it is the state or an individual (except that most of the latter are paying twice).
At least, where selection is concerned, the tories seem to be going for setting and streaming which is something.
The main wastage of money in state run enterprises arises from poor management.
Private schools, being businesses, go out of business, if they are not run properly (and some do of course), so the principle of "central funding but the school managing its own affairs" seems eminently sensible.

"Just 28% of Britons are qualified to apprentice, skilled craft, and technician levels". 11:01

And I would be questioning just how qualified they really are, the times of 5 year apprenticeships have long since gone to be replaced with 6 month ones. Now either apprentices all those years ago were particularly thick and needed all of that training or today's output aren't well trained and of limited ability. Interestingly I have a friend who is a house builder, they now have to design houses that can be built by "tradesmen" with limited ability, guess I've answered my own question.;)

Congratulations to John Hayes for his contribution to this vital issue. If we want to be serious about economic competitiveness and social justice we need to be serious about vocational education. I very much hope Mr Hayes takes his excellent analysis forward and develops it into a priority policy for the next Conservative Government.

Any chance we could get a breakdown of the figures RE unemployment and skill levels?

Mark:"if you think that £30 buys drugs, fast food and nights out - you need to get out more"

Well, every little helps. My daughters classmates spend their Educational Maintenance Allowances on tattoos.
These bribes are counterproductive - kids sit in on classes they're not really interested in and hold back those who do want to learn. They are a complete waste of resources and should go asap.

Good article.

Mark Fulford, I can still show you places where £30 will get you a skinful and enough left over for a bite to eat (that's if you don't mind a dose of food poisoning!)

I will be interested to see how much publicity Johns proposals, get I very much suspect not enough. This is exactly the sort of work our party should be shouting from the rooftops about.

"kids sit in on classes they're not really interested in" and "we need to be serious about vocational education"

Hold on - on the 100 policy ideas the vote was YES on compulsory three sciences and compulsory history, if there had been a compulsory Foreign Language I feel that the voting would have said YES - just how much spare time do you think they have in a 25 hour school timetable to squeeze in vocational training if all of these other topics are compulsory? Many clever children want to study engineering, electrical qualifications, and you can't be a dunce to study plumbing but recently the voting suggested that everyone should be forced onto a restricted academic track.

'Licence to Practise' schemes concern me. So can window cleaners only operate if they've completed their NVQ level 3 in Window Cleaning? Are we going to have to certificate every adult in the workplace to at least NVQ level 2/3 with an external training provider in works time, whether they need it to perform their job or not?

Hold on - on the 100 policy ideas the vote was YES on compulsory three sciences and compulsory history

a-tracy, you're right, and it almost made me cry. How can apparently sensible people be both so silly and controlling? Examples like that make the argument for centralisation: if you trust people you get some bloody daft decisions.

By contrast this government makes the argument against centralisation: if you trust central government you get some bloody daft decisions, but they affect everyone!

Personally I'd prefer a perfect benevolent dictator. In their absence I'll take daft local decisions - at least I've got a chance of influencing those.

The big problem is that too many young people go to university to study mickey mouse courses and saddle themselves with large debts at the same time. We need to have the courage to close universities and bring back technical colleges. I doubt that the current leadership will have the courage to adopt such a policy - too many left wing academic votes at risk.

Skills shortage? Solved by doing nothing: The EU means our doors are now open to unlimited EU immigration and large numbers of non-EU immigrants.

So the government sees no point in helping and incentivising British people off the dole/incapacity benefit into jobs/training. A Conservative government would be in the same position.

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