From education to employment

Time to turn the clock backwards?

Just over a week ago I went into hospital for a minor operation under a general anaesthetic. What I woke up to was the re-emergence of grammar schools…

“Gosh this anaesthetic is good,” I thought, “even though it is giving me thoughts of delirium!” But it wasn’t delirium, just the reality that grammar schools are back on the horizon. The whole fine balance of education may move out of equilibrium – that is of course if you believe we currently have equilibrium. Some, however, will with no doubt say that grammar schools will assist with the regaining of equilibrium.

I can’t say that I am shocked or concerned with the announcement, but I question whether the purpose of the grammar schools is to increase the choice of high quality education, and whether they will provide the range of skills (both academic and vocational) that young people need.

If the grammar school revolution comes about and provides young people with skills for their progression then I will be thrilled. That of course means that there must be superb educational and careers guidance, and young people are able to get advice about careers via academic, vocational and apprenticeship routes. I, however, have that nagging doubt that it may be a very narrow range of opportunities which may destabilise the many efforts of the Government, Ofsted, LEPs and others in regard to meeting the skills requirements that employers need.

So what part does Further Education play in this equation? It seems to me there is all to play for, and with higher apprenticeships now on the agenda there surely must now be the new range of grammar colleges! A bit tongue in cheek you may say, but it does bring me back to my old hobby horse of learning trusts, which could potentially bring together new schools, grammar schools, academies and colleges. The Prime Minister, in moving the grammar school agenda forward, now has the opportunity to embrace such models of learning which in a formalised framework could be dynamic, influential and provide choice via a multitude of educational routes.

I don’t intend to moan on about the whys and why nots of grammar schools. In fact, is there any point if the die is cast? I have the hope that common sense will prevail regarding the expansion of learning opportunities in the future.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to address the ‘Women in Leadership’ conference held at the police headquarters in Portishead. As I looked at the myriad of keen and interested members of the audience I was able to share with them my perspectives on leadership, management and change. It was impressive to see the changes occurring across the UK in terms of responsiveness from public services, but most of all it reflected the whole issue of change management.

Talking of change I have no doubt that by now you are all in the midst of assessing learners for English and maths, and picking up many learners who have been let down by current education providers. We are privileged to work in FE; we do put young people’s educational lives back on the road, and it is education for all. Grammar schools are here to stay by the look of it, but so is Further Education. Why? Because that is where the dynamism lies for not only educational change but for fulfilling the UK skills agenda.

Have a good term!

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