As youth unemployment rose in 1976, Arnold Weinstock, managing director of the General Electric Company, wrote a letter in the Times Education Supplement headed “I blame the teachers” for not preparing pupils for employment. Since then relentless repetition by other leading industrialists, politicians and now the chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, has deflected attention from employers’ and government responsibility to provide jobs .
Wilshaw also blames “underachievement in state schools” for lack of social mobility. However many “skills” – or rather qualifications – teachers give students, it will not restart the limited upward social mobility from working to middle class that existed in a growing economy from 1945 to 1973. Today even young people who succeed in education find ascent difficult as most mobility is downward. Automation and outsourcing have deskilled much employment, not created “a knowledge economy”. This did not prevent Michael Gove, in the House of Commons last week, from holding the examinations system responsible for the UK’s “failure to compete” with Pacific rim countries. Rather than more such delusions about education, alternative economic policies are required.
Professor Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich