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Towards a new ‘general intellect’.

A lot has been written about the potential of digital technology and AI to ‘upskill’ the workforce and raise standards of living, but as previous posts have argued, there’s little sign the ‘knowledge economy’ has developed in the way its advocates expected.  Digitalisation and AI have indeed become integral to new types of production. But … Continue reading Towards a new ‘general intellect’.

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Filling (or digging?) a ‘black hole’

With the economy slipping into recession, (by all accounts maybe the longest ever), you’d think it would be generally accepted that at the very least, as even right-wing Tory Ian Duncan-Smith acknowledged on TV at the weekend, a bit of ‘Keynesian’ public spending is necessary, if only to stop things getting significantly worse. But paving … Continue reading Filling (or digging?) a ‘black hole’

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Background paper for NEU post-16 Conference

                                                 Education without jobs? Martin Allen ‘Post-16’ education’ is a relatively new concept. Fifty years ago, 40 % of working class[i] students left school without any significant qualifications (many of these being ‘early leavers’ with no grades in anything).  At that time, there were clear transitions to local employment, especially for the boys. Though … Continue reading Background paper for NEU post-16 Conference

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Books Reviews – Whatever happened to the ‘Knowledge Economy’?

Over the last decade, several publications have provided uncompromising accounts of how technological progress will reshape economy and society. These changes (it has been claimed) have constituted either a Second Machine Age (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014)  or  a Fourth Industrial Revolution (Schwab, 2017). While authors have been aware of the potential social upheavals resulting from … Continue reading Books Reviews – Whatever happened to the ‘Knowledge Economy’?

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PSE journal article. ‘A difficult summer for 18-year-olds’

It was a difficult summer for thousands of 18-year olds completing their post-16 education in either school sixth-forms or colleges. Arguably, this cohort had to endure more stress and uncertainty than the previous ‘Covid generation’ - when exams were cancelled and work was teacher-assessed. Read the article in full and download others from PSE issue … Continue reading PSE journal article. ‘A difficult summer for 18-year-olds’

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As Neo-liberal factions slug it out, how do we pay for energy and public services?

Recent days have seen two factions of Neo-liberalism going head-to-head in a bruising encounter, with mainstream Neo-liberalism moving quickly to crush a rebellious (and even more right wing) tendency led by Prime Minister Truss and Chancellor Kwarteng.  Mainstream Neo-liberalism ( in the UK, also referred to as ‘Treasury Orthodoxy’ and most recently associated with defeated … Continue reading As Neo-liberal factions slug it out, how do we pay for energy and public services?

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Think what £65 billion could be spent on!

With the pound still falling, the Bank of England has used its inflation mandate to restart Quantitative Easing – a process that, at least until a few days ago was being slowly reversed.  QE involves the Bank buying  government debt – mostly gilts –from private and institutional investors.  Of course, technically, QE doesn’t reduce the … Continue reading Think what £65 billion could be spent on!

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The Pound tumbles, but how would Labour pay for it?

Truss and Kwarteng’s tax cutting mini budget has caused disarray on the currency markets, with Sterling tumbling to its lowest ever, meaning rising import prices are likely to cause further inflation. The Bank of England has gone ahead with interest rate rises, warning of more to come – even if it has stopped short from … Continue reading The Pound tumbles, but how would Labour pay for it?

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‘Generation Rent’ now can’t afford to.

It’s true that many young people, especially those referred to as ’ millennials', say that don’t want to own their own homes – surveys put this as high as a third.  Young people give a range of responses from ‘I don’t want to be ‘tied down’ to ‘I’m thinking of going off travelling’. This is a … Continue reading ‘Generation Rent’ now can’t afford to.

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A-level results : when they were down, they were down……

After record results last year, when almost one in five (19.1%) grades were A*, A-level top grades were down to 1 in 7 this time around, while the proportion of candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving A or A* has fallen from 44.8% last year to 36.4%. The number of 'high-flyers' who got three A*s … Continue reading A-level results : when they were down, they were down……

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Why don’t young people join trade unions?

Surveys continue to highlight a wide range of progressive views held by young people (among both Generation Z and Millennials). Polling returns also show high levels of support for Labour (and particularly the Green Party) even if this isn’t reflected in party membership.  Yet barely 1 in 10 workers under 24 belong to a trade … Continue reading Why don’t young people join trade unions?

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Tory leadership contest. Tax cuts, debt and ‘future generations’

Sunak and Truss continue to squabble over economic policy, Sunak repeatedly claiming his opponent's promise of immediate tax cuts  is akin to putting increases in national debt on 'credit card' for future generations to pay. Despite being told by his ex-boss to spend billions on Covid support and the furlough, Sunak is on the ‘balance … Continue reading Tory leadership contest. Tax cuts, debt and ‘future generations’

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When they were up they were up. When they were down they were down….

Universities have agreed that the number of candidates awarded first class degrees and 2:1s should be drastically reduced. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/jul/05/proportion-of-top-degree-grades-in-england-could-fall-by-nearly-25 Universities UK and GuildHE, bodies representing institutions across the higher education sector, have jointly announced plans to return to pre-pandemic award grade levels. It's reported that the proportion of top degree grades awarded to undergraduates inEngland … Continue reading When they were up they were up. When they were down they were down….

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T-levels: Too big to fail?

The Government continues to roll out its programme of T-levels,  new technical qualifications in England, originating from a review commissioned by David Cameron and then a White Paper published by Teresa May The first 3 T Levels were launched in September 2020, in digital, construction and childcare.  A further 7 began in September 2021 (2 … Continue reading T-levels: Too big to fail?

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The looming recession, young workers and young NEETs

Rates for UK youth unemployment have been falling sharply since the end of the pandemic. At the height of Covid just over 1 in 7 (13.7%) of the 16-24 age group were recorded as jobless. This had fallen to 10.6% for the first quarter of this year. Young people were the group worst affected by … Continue reading The looming recession, young workers and young NEETs

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Stagflation – young people even more likely to be affected.

It’s now widely predicted that the economy will enter a prolonged period of ‘stagflation’- where rising prices and slow, or even negative economic growth exist simultaneously. But it’s rising prices ( the 'cost of living crisis') that currently receive most of the attention.  Studies show that a consequence of the current inflation is the widening … Continue reading Stagflation – young people even more likely to be affected.

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‘Going solo’ – young people and self employment.

Often encouraged to demonstrate they are part of a new entrepreneurial culture, students and school-leavers invariably see self-employment as a route to both a high income and greater personal freedom. ONS analysis shows one in five (21%) 16- to 21-year-olds say it is likely they will be self-employed at some point in the future. In 1975, … Continue reading ‘Going solo’ – young people and self employment.

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Post-16 Educator 107 out now

The following articles are available, but please consider a subscription http://post16educator.org.uk/ Nuala Burgess'The market, sixth-formers and post-school choosing'Nuala Burgess looks at who wins and who loses. Martin Allen'Curriculum alternatives'Martin Allen investigates how the relation between vocational and academic courses has developed over time. Carol Azumah Dennis and Mel Green'bell hooks, 1952-2021 writer, activist, teacher: an … Continue reading Post-16 Educator 107 out now

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Review. A new technical elite?

Education, Skills and Social Justice in a Polarising World: Between Technical Elites and Welfare Vocationalism (Routledge Research in Vocational Education) Does the emergence of new advanced and higher-level qualifications constitute a break from traditional conceptions of vocational education – which since its emergence in the 1980s, has been associated with both educational failure and providing … Continue reading Review. A new technical elite?

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No mention of young people in the Spring Statement

The group most hit by the financial crisis and then, a decade later by Covid, young people are the most certain to be hit by increases in the cost of living. More than any other section of the population, their wages have failed to keep pace with inflation (under 21s already experienced a 20% fall … Continue reading No mention of young people in the Spring Statement

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Youth unemployment falls but the NEETs remain.

UK Labour market data released this week, for Nov- Jan 2022, shows UK unemployment estimated at 3.9%, 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, and returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. There are now nearly as many vacancies as there are people unemployed (1.34 million).  But the UK economic inactivity rate is estimated at … Continue reading Youth unemployment falls but the NEETs remain.

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Government lowers student loan repayment cap

With media attention understandably focussed elsewhere, last week's Government response to the Augar Review on Higher Education (in England) has largely passed by unnoticed. It’s also getting on for three years since the Review was published! Arguing for more 'value for money' from the HE sector, Augar's real aim (like the Tories) real aim, is … Continue reading Government lowers student loan repayment cap

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Young people, education and skills:  Nothing new in the ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper

The Levelling Up White Paper adds little to the Tories existing policies designed to 'upskill' young people. Way down in the policies chapter, you’ll find, amongst other things,  proposals to. Create a handful of specialist 16-19 Maths schoolsAllow ‘talented’ 16-year-olds from disadvantaged areas to be fast tracked entries to high performing sixth forms. New ones … Continue reading Young people, education and skills:  Nothing new in the ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper

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Reforming the Curriculum (part 2)

The previous post (below) addressed 'powerful knowledge', equated with 'knowledge of the powerful', ( a ruling class, or Elite depending on how you want to characterise things). This knowledge, it was argued, appears ‘fixed,’ intrinsically superior, but is also essential in ensuring ‘legitimacy’. In other words its intrinsic qualities are used to justify a wider social … Continue reading Reforming the Curriculum (part 2)

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Reforming the Curriculum

While reformers (now even many Tories)  continue to emphasise education’s potential role in challenging inequalities  through expanding opportunities,   radical practitioners go further and argue an alternative curriculum is necessary.   Here they are have been joined by left wing academics , who influenced by the  writings of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci or, in this country, by the work … Continue reading Reforming the Curriculum

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UK employers look to hire school leavers as skills shortage bites (?)

An interesting piece in the Financial Times this week,   arguing that employers are planning to recruit more school leavers rather than just rely on graduates. ftDownload Rather than the ‘generic’ skills that graduates have, the FT reports that employers are short of recruits with ‘specific’ skills and can’t rely on the government’s further education reforms to provide … Continue reading UK employers look to hire school leavers as skills shortage bites (?)

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Leaving labour.

The latest ONS labour market data (published at the start of this week) shows unemployment falling to 4.2 per cent.  Redundancies remained below pre-pandemic levels, with just 1.2 unemployed per vacancy. In other words  the  effects on joblessness of ending of the furlough appear  limited. Having said this,the ONS says  it is still possible that people made redundant were … Continue reading Leaving labour.

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BTEC funding – a one year reprieve (so far)

The Skills Bill is currently completing its progress through Parliament where  some of the most vocal opponents to the proposals to defund BTECs have been members of the House of Lords - in particular former Secretaries of State for Education,  Ken Baker, the instigator of the National Curriculum under Mrs Thatcher, but now a campaigner for … Continue reading BTEC funding – a one year reprieve (so far)

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The House of Lords and the Young Unemployed.

Their Lordships, even if, as one of the most archaic parts of the British state, many of whom are unlikely to have had any real personal contact with working class young people, have commissioned a two hundred page report on youth joblessness. lords-reportDownload With a committee membership stretching from Lord (Kenneth) Baker, as education minister … Continue reading The House of Lords and the Young Unemployed.

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Jobs, jobs, jobs?

This month’s labour market statistics continue to confound many. It’s clearly a case of ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ though it’s probably still too early to properly assess the affects of the end of furlough and the number of ‘zombie jobs’ - the statistics cover the three month period before. Nevertheless unemployment is now at 4.3%, falling … Continue reading Jobs, jobs, jobs?

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Review: The Automation debate

Phil Jones . Work without the Worker. Labour in the Age of Platform Capitalism (Verso 2021) This readable and informative book explores the  abusive nature of crowd-working platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and its emulators.  Here under the banner of 'technological progress',  extreme forms of exploitation have developed and a  new generation of  ‘micro-workers’ has emerged.  Forced … Continue reading Review: The Automation debate

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‘Skills, Skills, Skills’ – Sunak’s £1.6 billion for the T’s.

To help tweak the  “skills revolution” Chancellor Sunak will provide £1.6 billion for 16-19 education.  Though much less than college bosses have called for, a large amount of this will be funding for  100,000 16- to 19-year-olds studying for T-levels, the new and controversial technical-based qualifications launched in three vocational areas in September 2020 at the height of the … Continue reading ‘Skills, Skills, Skills’ – Sunak’s £1.6 billion for the T’s.

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Youth joblessness falls but uncertainties continue

Yesterday's ONS labour market figures show unemployment down to 4.6%, falling from 5.5% at the height of the pandemic, with over a million vacancies.  Young workers have been the hardest hit with the 16-24 unemployment rate reaching almost 15% by September 2020, but this is now also falling  - down  to 12.9% in the May-July … Continue reading Youth joblessness falls but uncertainties continue

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Tories higher education strategy goes off the rails?

The pandemic has caused a serious crisis for Tory higher education policy. Wanting the university sector to be restricted to ‘the few’,  or at the very least, highly stratified, with the right students in the right institutions, Conservative governments have tried to establish an alternative vocational route for young people by  introducing new ‘technical’ qualifications … Continue reading Tories higher education strategy goes off the rails?

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This week’s results. Just another dose of ‘grade inflation’?

As A-level results are officially published, media platforms have already prepared the ground for another round of grade inflation. Anxious to do the best for their students, teachers will inevitably ‘mark up’. So more young people will get higher grades and top universities (those that ‘select’ rather than ‘recruit’) will be under pressure to accept … Continue reading This week’s results. Just another dose of ‘grade inflation’?

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Huge opposition to defunding BTECs

The DfE has published the results of the latest ‘consultation’ on its proposals for Level 3 post-16 qualifications.   government_responseDownload In reality this has been a limited exercise. Academic qualifications were always going to remain in their current form, with A-levels continuing to be the main route into HE.  But the government has already decided that … Continue reading Huge opposition to defunding BTECs

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More learning means more earning? Comments on some recent literature

Education is widely considered to have a significant influence on the general performance of the economy, as well as on an individual’s returns in the labour market. In contrast to the physical assets of an enterprise, education is regarded as ‘human capital’.  Because educated workers add more value, then according to this logic, the more … Continue reading More learning means more earning? Comments on some recent literature

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A-levels. Not as golden as they once were

In Post-16 Educator 104 http://post16educator.org.uk/ Created to replace the Higher School Certificate in 1951 and with only 3% of the cohort sitting them,  A-levels continued to be  elite or ‘gold standard’ qualifications, educationally narrow, with  universities having a major influence over their syllabus content.  Until 1953 A-levels were only graded as pass or fail, at … Continue reading A-levels. Not as golden as they once were

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BTEC funding facing the chop?

Eleven organisations including most of the teacher unions and the NUS  have issued a statement warning of government plans to cut funding for vocational qualifications that overlap with the new T-levels. In particular there’s concern about the future of the tried and trusted BTEC qualifications. 0621-joint-position-statement-on-agqs-final1-1Download Of course the old-style teacher assessed BTEC qualifications no … Continue reading BTEC funding facing the chop?

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Reforming the upper secondary curriculum

Until relatively recently,   discussion  about an alternative curriculum for 14-19, the upper secondary years bloomed, with a variety of initiatives promoting either ‘over-arching’ certificates to link and equate academic and vocational learning, or even their full integration in a general diploma. Yet  maybe a certain weariness was already creeping in, not helped by the fact … Continue reading Reforming the upper secondary curriculum

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A Job guarantee scheme not ‘Kickstart’

Faced with the threat of a huge rise in youth unemployment in the final quarter of 2020, Chancellor Sunak set up Kickstart. Providing £2billion funding to create sixth month job placements for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment,  Employers of all sizes were encouraged to apply for funding … Continue reading A Job guarantee scheme not ‘Kickstart’