The long awaited Industrial Strategy White Paper has finally been published. And it makes good reading. There is a strong emphasis on backing winning sectors with winning general purpose technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and green energy. And there is a renewed focus on people and skills, re-announcing the Government’s commitment to building a world class technical education sector through better, more employer relevant curricula; an expansion of quality and higher level apprenticeships and a new National Retraining scheme for digital luddites like me already in the workplace. And of course a focus on maths and STEM with a large(ish) £400 million set aside for this work.
Every three years Dr Andreas Schleicher of the organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals the results of tests on 15 year-olds from across the globe in English, maths and Science. These results are known by the acronym PISA. From them the OECD can create a league table of achievement by country – a ranking if you will of how the education systems of the participating countries are doing when compared against each other.
I am sitting writing this blog from the AoC annual conference surrounded by college Principals, their number 2s and 3s and the consultants who offer them services – services they need and some they’d like. Indeed it is the services that many Principals would like to have that might effect the greatest improvements that they no longer have the funds for. Things like additional support for teaching practice. Development funding to improve the quality of their managers and leaders; support to improve their brokerage services to employers and perhaps most notable ways to help improve the parlous state of English and maths results (grade A* to C) in their institutions. For maths and English are fast becoming the straw that broke the camel’s back. Several colleges I know have had simply disastrous English and maths results with some with pass rates in single digits.
So it has happened. The atavists have won. Leave managed to encourage enough of the disempowered in the cities and the viscerally conservative shire English to come out and vote to leave the European Union. The repercussions have been immediate and could be more profound than any of us quite realise. A Prime Minister has already resigned. Scotland may secede from the union. The North and South of Ireland could reunite. And in every corner of the land shell shocked people under the age of 40 are asking themselves ‘why have our parents and grandparents done this to us?’
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