From education to employment

Six steps for change

If there’s one area that’s dominated the education landscape this summer it is GCSEs.

For the Edge Foundation this is a really interesting time to address the proposed changes.  Today we are launching the Six Steps for Change, outlining a new education and training system. Edge’s “Six Steps for Change” call on politicians, practitioners and the public to:

  • recognise that there are many talents and paths to success


  • ensure that “learning by doing” is valued equally with academic learning


  • provide technical, practical and vocational learning as an integral and valued part of every young person’s education and as a recognised route to success


  • from the age of 14, give young people a choice of learning experiences and pathways based on their motivation, talents and career aspirations


  • ensure that the technical, practical and vocational education and qualifications offered in schools, FE and HE are high quality and recognised by employers


  • ensure all young people, whatever their different abilities and interests, leave the system with confidence, ambition and the skills to succeed and the skills the economy needs

Despite developments in the attitudes of many people, in the UK there is still a culture where high quality technical, practical and vocational learning is too often viewed as second best behind academic learning.

Edge’s mission is to change that. The country needs people who can combine know-how with can-do – people who can invent and make as well as remember and write. We have those people – but we don’t always give them the opportunity to discover and develop all their talents.

In relation to GCSE reforms, we don’t actually think they go far enough. “Learning by doing” must be part of every young person’s education.  As Lord Baker of Dorking, Chair of the Edge Foundation, points out, “It’s vital that schools and colleges provide education which develops practical skills and personal qualities as well as subject knowledge.  This has to include opportunities to learn by doing.  This isn’t about the skills needed for a particular job. It’s about understanding how maths and English – and many other school subjects – are used at work and in adult life. And not just that: it’s also about teamwork, solving problems and communicating with other people. “  Exams have to be capable of recognising all these talents.

Edge proposes a programme of studies for 14 – 18 year olds where academic and hands-on subjects are combined. The vast majority of young people now stay in education or training until they are 18. We don’t need a school-leaving certificate for 16 year olds. Instead, we need a general test at 14 to check student progress and help guide subject choices. After that, students should combine academic and hands-on subjects and earn credits towards a high school diploma at 18.

Going forward, we hope that all Six Steps are accepted and implemented.  The result will be a step change in the confidence, achievement and abilities of young people. Taken together, they will ensure all young people, whatever their different abilities and interests, really do leave the system with confidence, ambition and the skills to succeed –and the skills the economy needs.

To get involved with the debate and share your views log onto and add your comment.

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge, the independent education foundation dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning

Related Articles

Promises, Possibilities & Political Futures…

Tristan Arnison discusses the main UK parties’ education policies for the upcoming election. While specifics vary, common themes emerge around curriculum reform, skills training, and…