From education to employment

Sarah Teather MP speaks at the Liberal Democrat Conference

Today’s curriculum is highly prescriptive and students are being forced into two “parallel” systems offering little choice, according to the Liberal Democrats.

Sarah Teather MP, Shadow Education Secretary, noted the impact of nine years of a Labour government at the conference earlier this week. She said: “When young people start secondary school, they”re put on a conveyer belt. At 14 they get a little choice in an otherwise highly prescriptive curriculum. If they pass their GCSEs they stay on to A-levels. The only way off the conveyer belt for most young people is to fall, and too many do”.

Pointing to the current statistics, she continued: “A system where a quarter of young people quit education at 16, probably never to return cannot be working. We fail these young people at the very start of their lives. We force them into two parallel systems, offering little choice in either route”.

And in a reference to the issue over a mixed curriculum offering academic and vocational learning as a combined package, she noted: “Why should we assume that academically gifted students don”t need skills, or that practical students could never be interested in history? The idea that A-levels are for the best and skills for the rest has got to go”.

“Mike Tomlinson gave the Government the answer to this problem on a plate but they baulked at implementing it. Their failure to do so is typical of the cowardice at the heart of government”, she added.

Using the recent debate over standards in education, she said: “Everyone else in the world uses a sampling system, with the same test each year on a small group of students picked at random. Then we would really know whether standards are rising because we could compare the results with last year”.

“Once we have established a sampling system, teachers would then be free to set and mark their own assessment tests for their own class to tell them how their own students are doing”.

“Then finally we would have assessment for learning, not assessment for targets”.

And in a nod to the lifelong learning agenda, she said: “A flexible approach to education should not end at 19. We need further and higher education which fits around people’s lives. It may be fine for you to go to university for 3 years away from home if you are 19. But if you have family or caring responsibilities or need to work to support yourself you need more freedom. And we won”t widen access without it”.

“We need education that values the individual, that encourages achievement, that fosters independence”.

Vijay Pattni.

Next week: the Centre for Excellence in Leadership write exclusively for FE News

Related Articles