From education to employment

NUS Praises Students, but Calls for Tomlinson Proposal Rethink

Around the country, quite literally thousands of students are biting their nails and sweating on their A Level results, which are released later today with the lasting impact that they can often have on a young person’s future.

And, in what has become an annual festival of negativity, the rallying cry has gone up criticising the perceived “dumbing down” of A Levels as a political exercise in guaranteeing constantly rising pass rates and placating the public, for whom a drop in achievement after substantial investment would represent a poor return.

But the President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Kat Fletcher calls for a more thoughtful approach. “The constant denigration of A-level students achievements is as old fashioned as the exams themselves,” she said. Warming to the theme, she continued: “In any other part of the world we would be using this opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our people, young and old, but we seem to be unable to do that.”

Where the Real Issues Are

As has been mentioned in many previous articles regarding the standard of education, qualifications, training and learning provision, and encouraging equal status for vocational and academic education, the rejection of the Tomlinson Report (which recommended the adoption of an overarching diploma to replace the current system) remains a bitter pill to swallow; a pill, in fact, that has stuck in the throat for many who believe that the way to move education in Britain forward is this type of development and reform.

Kat Fletcher calls attention to these issues, and points out that this kind of backwards ““ looking attitude is counter ““ productive. “The old prejudices that prevent us from praising high achievement can be compared to those which ensure that vocational courses are consistently portrayed as the soft option,” she said. “All our members have worked incredibly hard for their examinations, academic or otherwise, and should be rightly proud of their results.”

What the Headlines Leave Out”¦

The arguments that rage about standards at A Level will undoubtedly continue; but they can often obscure other vital issues that need to be addressed. One such issue is the number of students going on to A Level / post 16 education, with some 49% of students failing to achieve five or more passes at GCSE level. The Government’s plan to ensure that 50% of young people move on to Further or Higher Education, for the NUS, means that the time is ripe for a re ““ appraisal of the Tomlinson proposals.

Kat Fletcher stated: “NUS calls for a framework of qualifications which provide alternative pathways to further and higher education and move away from high risk exams at 16 that nearly fifty per cent are failing.” She also spoke of education provision for all who demonstrated the desire and potential, saying: “We look forward to the forthcoming Foster Review this Autumn and hope the government will reconsider an integrated diploma to truly ensure that A stands for Achievement and Access.”

FE News would like to take this opportunity to echo Kat Fletcher’s praise for the achievements of young people across the UK. It is all too easy and all too common to knock down success, and this should be an opportunity for recognising the hard work that is still done every day by learners and teachers, whilst using this as a platform to call for change for the better.

Jethro Marsh

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