An education system in reverse gear

The Government’s track record on education is not good; I would go as far as to say it is awful. Scrapping EMA and trebling tuition fees have been done against a backdrop of a 900,000 young people unemployed. Many are not prepared for the future. Whilst there is a clearly defined path for those who tackle ‘A’ levels and university courses, one senses that those who do not follow this path are largely ignored. Allowing schools to employ unqualified teachers and overseeing falling numbers of sixteen to eighteen-year olds in education and training is not a record to be proud of.

Something approaching half of all youngsters go on to university, leaving half that do not and their lot is a confusing mix of vocational courses, many of which are low quality, and no clear progression from one stage of vocational education to the next. This fails them, and it fails society as a whole.

Michael Gove may be gone, but he did oversee a number of worrying trends in education. We have more unqualified teachers in classrooms, and now have the lowest entry standards for teaching in the world. This does not inspire confidence. It is said that you now need more qualifications to work in a burger bar than to become a maths teacher. The Tories have failed to tackle unsatisfactory standards in core subjects – the Government should be insisting that all young people study English and maths up to age eighteen. Apprenticeships are in decline, and there is an increase in the number of apprentices not receiving the minimum wage.

The country’s future is threatened if we do not give our youngsters the skills needed in a twenty-first century world. Rather than removing democratic oversight and allowing the marketplace to dominate in education the Government should be doing something about falling standards and the overlooked half that do not go into academic further education.

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2 Responses to An education system in reverse gear

  1. drouxel says:

    Whilst I think the general Thrust of what you write is broad correct – that the Tories have an appalling record on education – I think there are serious issues with some of the things you state about, for example, vocational education e.g. many of the courses are “low quality” – what do you base that on? That there is no clear progression – which in fact does exist – there is a clear vocational progression from Level 2 (GCSE level) up to level 5 (second year of degree level) and indeed beyond with foundation degrees (which, as a Labour invention, I’m surprised you are unaware of).

    The other serious error is linking vocational education with Gove – for many years (including under Labour) vocational education is not dealt with by DfE, it comes under BIS since the 2009 reshuffle – Gove has very little to do with FE, and there is a specific minister in BIS for skills – (Kevin Brennan under Mandelson, then John Hayes under Vince Cable, then Matthew Hancock and now Nick Boles – who (after 5 years with no link) now has a joint role with the DfE – but without Gove.

    I think there is also the complicity of Labour in this mess – whilst this government has made massive inroads in destroying the education sector in this country, the fundamental issues of the internal quasi-market, targets driven measurement and funding, the politicisation of inspection and the impossible to succeed in league tables were all in place and put into overdrive under Labour – the destruction of good quality Further Education came from the Tories, but the 1997 – onwards Labour government made it worse, not better – reading through the academic record of the era, there were real concerns about FE following the 1992 Act, but this steps up a gear following the constant shuffling of the funding regime under labour, the parochial focus which this created, the gaming behaviours and out and out fraud allowed to go on within it and the almost total destruction of the FE Teacher as a genuine professional – reduced to mere data creation drones in the Labour/Tory vision of Further Education.

  2. Skirting over our differences of opinion over Labour’s record (although I will admit that mistakes were made) I should point out what I hoped would be obvious – I am having a go at the Government, not educators.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the clear vocational progression that you see is somewhat opaque to most people, and you cannot help but get the impression that it is a confusing mix. I base my writing not just on what I know, but from what I hear when having discussions in the community. There is a sense that vocational training is very much the poorer relation as compared to academia.

    My reference to Gove I think stands up – it was he that introduced academies and free schools, and was content to see growing numbers of the unqualified to teach do precisely that.

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