The think tank Demos has launched a major attack on the inadequacies of the current school curriculum and how it is failing many young people seeking employment. https://demos.co.uk/research/the-employability-badge-skills-for-life-work-and-a-stronger-society/ Demos reports that transferable skills are now more valuable to employers - skills like leadership, teamwork, problem solving and emotional resilience for example. It argues that schools … Continue reading What did happen to ‘Core Skills’?
Burnham proposes new MBacc
Andy Burnham has launched proposals for a 'Greater Manchester Baccalaureate' to promote technical education courses for those young people (the forgotten half as Ed Miliband referred to them) who will not follow the academic route to HE. It’s designed to lead to skilled jobs in the local economy and to avoid the huge debts associated … Continue reading Burnham proposes new MBacc
Still more Master apprentices
Latest statistical releases this month show total apprenticeship starts in England, from Aug 2022 to Jan 2023 down by 4.1% to 195,600 compared to 203,990 reported for the same period in the previous year. But starts for Higher level apprenticeships continue to grow substantially, accounting for over a third of all starts, up by 7% … Continue reading Still more Master apprentices
‘Farewell to the working class’? Or good-bye to parts of the middle?
It’s getting on for forty-five years since the publication of Andre Gorz’s Farewell to the Working Class led to controversy – and accusations of heresy, from socialist and labour movement quarters. Gorz claimed that as a result of developments within capitalist society, particularly the increased role of machinery, groups of workers would be ejected from … Continue reading ‘Farewell to the working class’? Or good-bye to parts of the middle?
Sunak’s maths jolly. Does it really add up?
Rishi Sunak has announced a review of maths education in England. He’s setting up a group of advisers, including mathematicians and business representatives to examine the "core maths content" taught in schools. The advisors will also consider whether a new maths qualification is necessary. He wants all school pupils in England to study some maths … Continue reading Sunak’s maths jolly. Does it really add up?
Book review. A Nation of Shopkeepers.
There’s been an absence of serious books about class for some years. In A Nation of Shopkeepers, The Unstoppable Rise of the Petty Bourgeoisie, Dan Evans draws on academic, political sources and his own personal experiences to tackle difficult issues about the 'middle' of society. Even if the perspective he adopts is not without controversy. Though … Continue reading Book review. A Nation of Shopkeepers.
Want an apprenticeship? Join the military!
https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/apprenticeships-and-traineeships Apprenticeship data updated yesterday shows starts between August and January down by 4.1% to 195,600 compared to 203,990 reported for the same period in the previous year. Covering a period when young people traditionally leave school or college, under 19s accounted for just 28.4% of these (55,580). These figures will now feature in 2022/3 totals. The … Continue reading Want an apprenticeship? Join the military!
ChatGPT: the end of the essay?
ChatGPT is becoming one of the most talked about developments in AI and machine learning. Although it is still in its infancy, ask it a question, or give it a prompt on its website and you will get an instant 'human-like' written response. ChatGPT can be used as a tool to generate text, translate language, … Continue reading ChatGPT: the end of the essay?
‘Off to work we go’?
Jeremy Hunt’s budget is unlikely to get many more people into the labour market. Most of the newspaper headlines have focussed on the child care reforms – particularly providing up to 30 hours for very young children (from 9 months to 2 years) but, as child care sector representatives have been quick to point out, … Continue reading ‘Off to work we go’?
The UK labour market remains tight, with government now concerned about the shortage of workers pushing up inflation. Though ONS monthly figures show a marginal increase in the unemployment rate for October to December 2022 by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter, to 3.7%, the ‘economic inactivity’ rate (those not in, but not actively looking … Continue reading Youth joblessness
Defending Btec’s : unlikely allies?
Former New Labour education minister David Blunkett and Kenneth Baker, architect of the National Curriculum under Thatcher continue to sound alarm bells on the government’s plan to scrap popular vocational and technical qualifications in England and push students into taking new T-levels. Supported by former Tory University ministers David Willetts and Jo Johnson, also members … Continue reading Defending Btec’s : unlikely allies?
Teachers back on strike
Thousands of teachers, members of the National Education Union in England and Wales have joined up to half a million other public sector workers taking strike action. (EIS members in Scotland have already started a programme of industrial action.) 70,000 UCU members in over 100 universities, were also due to be on strike. This has … Continue reading Teachers back on strike
Qualifications: creating or chasing jobs?
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal the qualifications divide between different parts of England. Subsequent comment has focussed on almost half of people in London (46.7%) holding a degree or similar qualification compared with under a third (28.6%) in areas like the north-east. The percentage in London was considerably higher than in … Continue reading Qualifications: creating or chasing jobs?
Apprenticeships: still not a real alternative for young people.
Some eight years after David Cameron promised 3 million more, apprenticeships have failed to provide real opportunities for all but a few of those young people not able to or not wanting to continue to higher education. This, rather than a 'skills crisis' is the real reason for the introduction of yet another full-time vocational … Continue reading Apprenticeships: still not a real alternative for young people.
With Millennials voting, things can only get better?
While most people accept that data from recent general elections show young people unlikely to vote Tory. https://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-findings/age-and-voting-behaviour-at-the-2019-general-election/#.Y7KwWyjMJOg It has also been argued that political sympathies are likely to change with age. The popular press continues to bang on about ‘generation gaps’, while pollsters have reported big shifts in allegiance amongst more elderly voters in … Continue reading With Millennials voting, things can only get better?
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’.
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’
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
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’?
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’
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?
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!
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?
Small state Tories?
Once again, a new Tory Prime Minister and Chancellor are banging on about the need for a smaller state. The modern-day reality is that this is pure fantasy. If public spending as a proportion of GDP is used as a bench mark, then as the charts below show, the UK has continued to fall well … Continue reading Small state Tories?
‘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.
BTEC chaos as Blair wades in
200,000 students were due to get their BTEC Level 3 final grades at the same time as A-level pupils on Thursday. The awarding body, the education conglomerate Pearson, says only a “very small percentage” of students have experienced a delay, but has not put a figure on those affected as more results are still being … Continue reading BTEC chaos as Blair wades in
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……
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?
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’
Young people and ‘click-work’
The number of people relying on ‘platform work’ continues to grow and has been intensified by the pandemic. According to the TUC, people in England and Wales who said that they performed work they had found via an online platform at least once a week grew from 5.8 per cent of the working population in … Continue reading Young people and ‘click-work’
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….
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?
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
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.
‘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.
During the period Aug 2021 to Jan 2022, there were just over 200 000 apprenticeship starts - up one fifth from a year ago and approaching the pre-pandemic level - in England, (compared to the same period in 2018/19 though, starts are down by 4.8% reflecting a long-term decline). Yet there continues to be major … Continue reading Master Apprentices
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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)
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
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 (?)
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.
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)
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.
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?
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