From education to employment

But warning expressed over creating Victorian elite

The government has proposed a £40 million investment to support the introduction of the new diplomas in 2008, the Education Secretary said yesterday.

Speaking at the Labour party conference, Alan Johnson said that the money was to be used as a fund for diploma related equipment such as engineering tools and new, purpose built facilities.

He said: “We must continue to give young people better qualification routes to success in life, work and further learning ““ with more opportunities for those who want to combine theoretical with practical learning”.

The extra £40 million is in addition to an earlier £45 million investment into “professional development and support for the teaching workforce”.

The government hopes that the introduction of the new Diploma will “improve attainment, staying on rates and progression into further learning and work by offering pupils more choice and further opportunities”, according to a statement released yesterday by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). Five Diplomas are on course to be introduced by 2008, with all 14 available as a national entitlement by 2013.

Mr Johnson added: “The new Diplomas represent a radical step in this direction and today I am pledging £40 million on top of funds already announced to underpin and deliver this reform by providing cash for the equipment and facilities to deliver these qualifications on the ground”.

However, in a strongly worded warning to Mr Johnson, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) condemned the government’s approach to education.

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL said: “[We] fully support the Government’s aspirations, to narrow the social class achievement gap and to improve the very poor participation rate post 16″. However: “Our schools have replicated an academic diet designed for a Victorian elite, with practical activities for those elements of the working classes who remained ungrateful for such an offer”.

“We need a truly balanced curriculum which would include physical and manual, social and emotional, creative and, yes, some intellectual skills. It is the so-called soft inter-personal skills which employers actually want”, she continued. “Today’s youngsters need to be assessed for the quality of their learning skills”.

“Regardless of intellectual ability, all young people would benefit from more highly developed manual skills, and society needs them all to have much more positive attitudes to the exercise of gross motor skills”.

Dr Bousted referred to ATL’s displeasure at a government refusal to consider radical changes, which has consequently undermined its own attack on the nation’s “lamentable” record in post-compulsory education. “Too many of our youngsters are alienated by their present diet”, she added.

“We call on the political parties to embrace a modern, comprehensive and motivating curriculum and assessment structure, one which will create active learners who can do and young people committed to lifelong education and training”.

Vijay Pattni.

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