The Education motion at conference stated “The UK faces a serious skills deficit”.
That is an understatement. Take for example what happens when young people fail GCSE Maths and English and move on to sixth form or college.
When I taught at a general FE College, I remember a group of 17 year old girls, who aspired to be nurses. I had to spend time, for example, teaching them quadratic equations when they really needed much more time improving their understanding and application of decimals, percentages, and ratio relevant to their career.
Force-feeding young people to resit GCSE Maths and English which they have just failed and hated is bad education. Statistically, results show it does not work. On average 25% pass; in Maths this year only 20% passed and can we claim that even these have sufficiently improved, with a pass mark around 20 out of 100, so was it relevant to their career?
This approach can even be dangerous; on more than one occasion in my lifetime a baby has died because the decimal point in a drug prescription was in the wrong place.
Our party motion makes clear that young people need to develop their Maths and English in a free course that is suited to their needs. Functional skills qualifications have this year been improved, so there is no excuse. Colleges at the moment are constrained by strict funding rules. We will give colleges the freedom and resources to judge the best way to improve basic skills for everyone at age 16+.
In this country skills and ‘vocational’ learning have not been given the attention they need for decades. Note these points.
First, the department for Education Skills Index, shows since 2012 the contribution of skills to the nation’s productivity declined by 27%. Second, we have now the lowest on record of adults pursuing any form of education. Third, the new T-level courses due to start in September 2020 look like being under-resourced. Fourth, the new apprenticeships while welcome are failing at the lower levels; companies who pay the levy have reduced their other training provision.
So, with all these recent failures to deal with the skills deficit, what does Boris Johnson do ? He removes the post of Skills Minister.
This follows a period when Michael Gove distorted the whole Education curriculum by his obsession with academic learning and theoretical testing. Under the veneer of improved exam results, many feel the harmful consequences of that and those at the lower end are not catching up.
So we have yet another reason for booting out Boris and Michael.
This government has little understanding of the FE and Skills sector and even when it tries (like Sajid Javid has done) to entice people with a temporary hand-out for 16-19 yr olds, it has given absolutely nothing for Adult Education and Life-Long Learning.
Our policy provides for each of these three.
The Personal Education and Skills Accounts (PESAs) not only provide financial help for people aged 25 to 55, but does it in the right way; it puts the person who needs the learning at the centre. That’s a typical Liberal Democrat approach.
Nigel Jones, Chair LDEA
Chair, Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats and PPC