From education to employment

18 educationalists send open letter to Kit Malthouse

Alice Barnard is Chief Executive of the Edge Foundation

Yesterday (8th September), Edge Foundation CEO, Alice Barnard and 17 leaders from organisations operating in education sent an open letter to the newly appointed Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse. It called for urgent change.

Here is the letter:

Dear Secretary of State,

Many congratulations on your appointment. Nothing can be more important than realising the potential of our learners and we’re certain that you’ll find the education portfolio exciting and rewarding to manage.

However, we currently have an out-dated education model, driven by a high-stakes accountability and assessment system. Our teachers are exhausted and our learners are not developing the transferable skills that employers are looking for. As a result, the UK continues to face growing skills shortages.

Education and training can be the key to restoring a sustainable upward trajectory in productivity. Over the last few years, a number of expert commissions and committees have been developing well-researched solutions for how we might improve England’s education system. They speak with a unified voice, calling for urgent change: 

  • A long-term education strategy– Over the last few years, we have seen significant churn in education policy. We must learn from the lessons from the past and develop a long-term education strategy– one that unlocks the potential of every child, that is shared across all parties and is supported by a long-term funding commitment. This strategy needs to bring together education at all levels and throughout life. This will tackle educational inequalities and support progression at all ages
  • Prioritising skills as well as knowledge– Essential skills are transferable skills such as creativity, problem- solving, team-work; skills that almost everyone needs to do almost anything. Instead of prioritising a knowledge-heaving curriculum and assessment system, we now need to develop a common approach and framework to embed essential skills via interdisciplinary project-based learning, links with employers and real-world events.
  • Evidencing a wider portfolio of talents– The current focus on high stakes exams rewards those who are naturally inclined towards academic examinations but routinely fails a third of pupils at GCSE level. Instead, we should celebrate the strengths of all young people via multi-modal assessment systems and a broad learner profile to evidence a range of talents.
  • The year we turn the tide on technical education– Technical education provides its own unique educational pathway, and we should no longer compare it as simply ‘opposite’ to academic learning. T levels represent an exciting opportunity, but other Level 3 options including Applied General Qualifications are equally important. Government’s current plan to defund a number of well-respected Level 3 qualifications must be reversed. Learners deserve the opportunity to study a range of high-quality qualifications at all levels and defunding these pathways would be a mistake.
  • Developingbalanced school evaluations– Current inspection and accountability measures cause unnecessary stress and anxiety among teachers and students. So, we should look to reform the inspection and accountability regime moving from an adversarial to a performance improvement role. A new ‘school report card’ can report on a broader range of factors such as wellbeing, school culture, and inclusion; unleashing the potential of schools.

The Government’s commitment to lifelong learning can only be fully realised through a developed strategy which creates opportunities at all ages. We now urgently need to invest in the future talent of our country and we look forward to working with you to deliver this vision.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Barnard – Chief Executive, Edge Foundation

Also signed by:

  • Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney – Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union
  • Rachel Sylvester – Chair, Times Education Commission
  • David Hughes – Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
  • Professor Bill Lucas – Co-Founder, Rethinking Assessment
  • Carl Ward – Chair, Foundation for Education Development
  • Bill Watkin – Chief Executive,Sixth Form Colleges Association
  • Jane Hickie – Chief Executive,The Association of Employment and Learning Providers
  • Tom Ravenscroft – Founder and CEO, Skills Builder Partnership
  • Patrick Wall – Founder,
  • Rebecca Deegan – Founder and CEO, I have a voice
  • Dr. Diana Beech – Chief Executive Officer, London Higher
  • Deborah Annetts – Chief Executive Officer, Incorporated Society of Musicians
  • Simon Parkinson – CEO & General Secretary, WEA
  • Kerry-Jane Packman – Executive Director, Parentkind
  • Hannah Kirkbride – CEO, Career Matters
  • Tony Ryan – Chief Executive Officer, The Design and Technology Association
  • Andrew Hurst MBE – Chief Executive, One Dance UK

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