Tag Archives: lifelong learning

The speeches that got away: Investing in further education and learning throughout life 

The Education motion at conference stated  “The UK faces a serious skills deficit”. 

That is an understatement. Take for example what happens when young people fail GCSE Maths and English and move on to sixth form or college. 

When I taught at a general FE College, I remember a group of 17year old girls, who aspired to be nurses. I had to spend time, for example, teaching them quadratic equations when they really needed much more time improving their understanding and application of decimals, percentages, and ratio relevant to their career. 

Force-feeding young people to resit GCSE Maths and English which they have just failed and hated is bad education. Statistically, results show it does not work. On average 25% pass; in Maths this year only 20% passed and can we claim that even these have sufficiently improved, with a pass mark around 20 out of 100, so was it relevant to their career? 

This approach can even be dangerous; on more than one occasion in my lifetime a baby has died because the decimal point in a drug prescription was in the wrong place. 

Our party motion makes clear that young people need to develop their Maths and English in a free course that is suited to their needs.  Functional skills qualifications have this year been improved, so there is no excuse. Colleges at the moment are constrained by strict funding rules. We will give colleges the freedom and resources to judge the best way to improve basic skills for everyone at age 16+. 

In this country skills and ‘vocational’ learning have  not been given the attention they need for decades. Note these points. 

First, the department for Education Skills Index, shows since 2012 the contribution of skills to the nation’s productivity declined by 27%. Second, we have now the lowest on record of adults pursuing any form of education. Third, the new T-level courses due to start in September 2020 look like being under-resourced.  Fourth, the new apprenticeships while welcome are failing at the lower levels; companies who pay the levy have reduced their other training provision. 

So, with all these recent failures to deal with the skills deficit, what does Boris Johnson do ?  He removes the post of Skills Minister. 

This follows a period when Michael Gove distorted the whole Education curriculum by his obsession with academic learning and theoretical testing. Under the veneer of improved exam results, many feel the harmful consequences of that and those at the lower end are not catching up.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

A lifelong “learning account”. Liberal, radical, just the way the party needs to go.

From free school meals in 1906 and 2014 to the Pupil Premium, Liberals have a proud and positive history in terms of reforming education in the UK. Despite this, Vince Cable’s idea of a “learning account” might be the most radical yet. The policy seems to be in its infancy at the moment with Vince Cable asking to “develop” the policy with the party. It would see all young people given a learning account, that they could use at any point in life for education purposes. As Mr Cable argued this is “fundamentally a liberal idea” and it is astonishing how little attention it has received.

The possible positives from this scheme seem remarkable; it would encourage social mobility as those from lower income households could make most use of the money. There are also deeper impacts in culture and sport, the power of education to inspire should not be forgotten. Giving people the freedom to choose exactly what to do with their education throughout adult life will give people an opportunity to pursue talents and careers they would previously only dreamed of.

There are of course some complaints. This of course would be an expensive policy and Vince Cable’s reply of taxing wealth certainly needs to be expanded upon. Yet here Vince Cable’s economic clout comes to the fold. In a recent speech to the Resolution Foundation on inequality he outlined how taxes can be improved. Specifically stopping loopholes in capital gains and inheritance tax as well as raising proposing tax on property value rather than council tax among other suggestions. Therefore, such a scheme would not be as hard to implement. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments
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