In a report for 'The One Show' on 11 July 2012, business woman Deborah Meaden ('Dragons' Den') looked at whether "Young people are unwilling to work" and if schools could do more to prepare them for the world of work. (01:32)
There is clearly a difference between willingness (or unwillingness) and preparedness for work, and this isn't the first time that the attitude of young people has been criticised by business leaders and politicians. Young men have even been stereotyped by Employment Minister Chris Grayling as "surly" hoodie-wearers "looking unwilling to work", despite that fact that, as he acknowledged, there are many young people keen to work and take up apprenticeships and become "excited and motivated" employees.
It can be difficult for schools to provide careers advice, with the demise of the Connexions service and without the proposed all-age careers advice service proposed by the Advocate for Access to Education.
Head of Sixth Form Graham Shurety told Deborah Meaden that his school had a careers adviser who came into the school for 1.5 days a week to see 16-180 pupils.
However, when it comes to careers, it seems that some career paths are more valued that others. Deborah Meaden observed that apprenticeships do not seem to be "encouraged or valued that highly".
Graham Shurety told her that:
"In a situation where schools are rewarded for academic results, and league tables are based largely on academic results, these students are often left to forage for themselves."
Education is pulled in different directions by competing visions but currently pursues the Government's target-driven, league-table-obsessed agenda of 'success' or 'failure' in academic examinations in subjects that are included in the narrow and pointless EBacc to the detriment of the vocational.
As Voice pointed out at the launch of the consultation, on Qualifications for 14-16 year olds and Performance Tables, there are a number of contradictions in the DfE's approach:
"The Wolf Report is quoted as the model to follow, but the DfE's press release still favours academic qualifications to the detriment of the vocational."
"we are wary of the suggestion that vocational achievements should be excluded from performance measures and that such measures should remain linked to a restricted number of, largely, GCSE subjects. This would appear to undermine the parity of esteem between vocational and academic subjects which Professor Wolf purports to favour, and we support."
"With the imminent prospect of the participation age being raised to 18, now is the time to ensure that proper provision is made for the majority of learners for whom a narrow academic approach is neither suitable nor relevant. We cannot afford to retain a form of compulsory education in which the majority of learners find no realistic purpose."
As Graham Stuart MP at the House of Commons Education Committee's session with Education Secretary pointed out, it was "naÃ¯ve" to believe that schools were not incentivised to follow the "framework" forced on them by the Government, as a "driver of behaviour":
"If you create the framework, you create the incentives, don't blame the people in the system if they follow the incentives."
The EBacc reduces a broad and balanced curriculum to a few subject areas, ignoring many other important subjects in the process. Students who would like to take vocational or technical subjects, or concentrate on a range of sciences, rather than a language, could miss out. Latin is promoted above ICT, engineering, business studies or economics.
Andy Burnham was right to criticise the Government for "saying that only the subjects in the English Baccalaureate are the ones worth taking" and that the pressure on schools has been "solely as preparation for university" while those who go straight into work or apprenticeships have been undervalued and under-prepared. Successive governments' testing and target-driven agenda have valued academic success to the detriment of vocational skills.
Not all children can 'succeed' in academic examinations, and Voice has argued for a greater range and type of subjects on offer to inspire pupils and parity between the vocational and academic.
The current Education Secretary seems to be pursuing an educational agenda based on his own personal experiences.
" Gove won a scholarship to a high-performing local independent school before reading English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. He then worked as a leader writer at The Times newspaper before entering politics. These are all experiences that have shaped his belief that Oxbridge is the ultimate gateway to success.
"In office, his unashamed embrace of the old-fashioned academe that leads to Oxbridge entry was first embodied by the introduction of the English Baccalaureate suite of traditional subjects in 2010.
"Most strikingly for schools, however, the Department for Education is also expected to confirm soon whether schools will have to publish the numbers of pupils they send to Oxford and Cambridge in their new 'destination data' profile.
"Schools minister Nick Gibb also recently launched a scheme to select bright pupils from state schools to visit top universities and report back to their classmates. Its Latin title, the Dux (translation: champion), reflects a certain attachment to a classical education no longer offered by the majority of comprehensives.
"These issues have led Gove's critics to claim that his focus on traditional subjects and elite universities particularly Oxbridge can only ever be a drop in the ocean, a sideshow to the bigger issues. Even a dangerous obsession.
"Concentrating on the tiny minority of pupils who might be suited to life at Oxbridge, they say, leaves the many other bright students out in the cold.
"Million+ chief executive Pam Tatlow adds: 'There's no doubt that studying at Oxford or Cambridge will give people advantages and will help them in later life and in their career, but a government's social mobility strategy should be much more than this.
'The majority of students studying at university won't be at Oxbridge. Social mobility is what happens to the majority of the population, not to a very small number of students.'
"Tatlow highlights new research from Million+'s May 2012 report Never too Late to Learn that showed that a third of undergraduates who are studying at university for the first time are over 21.
"'A social mobility strategy that targets only younger people misses out on a whole swathe of people, many of whom haven't had the opportunities or advantages earlier in life. There is currently a very limited vision of what social mobility means.'
"Bernard Barker, emeritus professor at the University of Leicester's School of Education, is currently interviewing 16- to 18-year-olds for his book Dreams of Success: problems of social mobility. This work, he says, suggests that top state school pupils are 'much less concerned with improved social status and wealth than the government wants them to be'.
"'Gove seems obsessed with cloning himself, imagining upwardly mobile orphans forced to read Pope and Dryden on their way to Oxbridge and the House of Commons,' the former comprehensive school headteacher says.
"'He reveals with his every utterance a complete failure to understand anything beyond the posh academic curriculum he swallowed himself without a critical thought in his head. This has led him to be extremely critical of every other possibility for young people.'"
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