Cridland looking for a more holistic approach and a binding theme to reforms
And criticises careers advice in schools
It is true to say that the CBI, which represents big business to government, is broadly supportive (though not uncritical) of the governments education policies. CBI members, though, would not disagree with the oppositions Tristram Hunt in his observation that there is still a worrying disconnect between the education system and the job market.
But John Cridland who heads the organisation, has recently articulated other concerns. Firstly, that the Education Secretary has managed to alienate rather too many stakeholders, including ‘moderate’ unions (the on going fall out over curriculum reforms adds to this impression). Secondly, as he described in a recent Guardian article (29 May) ‘What’s lacking is the thread that ties it (ie reforms) all together, the theme tune that will give more school leaders the confidence to get up and dance.’ Goves team, of course ,would dispute this. Having driven through structural reforms focused on school autonomy ,against some concerted opposition,,they are now focused on the curriculum, assessment and the quality of teachers and teaching ,so our schools and system can compare with the very best in the world. The overarching theme is to improve the lot ,in particular, of the most disadvantaged pupils narrowing the achievement gap between them and their peers. So, there is the theme tune, or narrative, which was pretty clearly spelt out in the coalition agreement . Gove to be fair, whether one agrees with him or not, has been pretty clear from the outset about his intentions.
As for alienating stakeholders, Gove joins a long line of Secretary of States, both Conservative and Labour, who have upset both Headteachers and union leaders (remember David Blunkett?)
Cridland suggests though that there are three areas in which swift action could be taken to address this.
Firstly, standards and accountability.There’s more to school than just rigour he claims: ‘ The exam treadmill needs to be replaced with fewer but tougher tests in more relevant subjects, freeing time in the curriculum to focus on space for broader education. The accountability system also needs to keep pace with this.’ ‘ In schools, tough exams are essential but are not sufficient in creating a great education system.The government needs to adopt a more holistic view that wins support from heads, business and parents. Ofsted needs to adjust its role to be a guarantor, through reports that mix assessment on exam results with a broader narrative setting out achievement in the round.’
Secondly, the curriculum. 18 will be the main point of achievement for young people once the participation age is raised in two years time. So we need a refreshed, single curriculum from 14 onwards which acknowledges that each young person will learn in a different way and find a different path. Let’s invest in rigorous vocational alternatives and give them a proper standing in the system – gold standard vocational A-levels. And let’s stimulate a culture where individual learning plans are the norm, mapping out each young person’s academic and personal development.
Finally, we need, according to Cridland, ‘ to equip young people in making the transition from school into an increasingly complex labour market. He writes ‘We know that schools are struggling with the new duty to provide careers advice which in many places is increasingly on life support. Businesses must step up to the mark to help with this but ministers’ attitude suggests that they simply don’t prioritise it. We need urgent action if the forthcoming impact assessment proves the negative picture many anticipate.’
Worryingly for the Gove team ,having focused so much in the first two years on structural reforms, with some success, they now find that they are running out of time on other fronts, including on curriculum reforms, where the process appears rushed, and meaningful consultation signally lacking.
1″Provision [of careers advice] is absolutely patchy,” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has said . “We are aware of some very good practice, but lots of schools are really struggling.” Changes to the school-leaving age – due to rise to 17 this year and 18 by 2015 – make good, early careers advice “all the more important”, he added.
2 It is extremely difficult to find evidence in support of the government’s current approach to Careers Education Information and Guidance in schools. Indeed, several reports over the last eighteen months from, for example, the Education Select Committee, Alan Milburn, Professor Tony Watts ., HEFC, London Observatory of Skills and Employment, Careers England, the AOC, ICGES/ Pearson Think Tank , NFER , ‘Which’, the Work Foundation, CIPD, and Working Links, paint a negative, dysfunctional picture of the current state of CEIAG in England’s schools and a lack of confidence in the direction of travel.
3 CBI First Steps Report 2012:“This report deals with the most important part of the UK’s long-term growth strategy – improving education. As our work sets out, the potential economic gain from getting this right is enormous, yet today we have a system where a large minority of our young people fall behind early and never catch up. This cannot be acceptable”