Fewer exams and more work skills needed in schools reveals new report

Edge Report - Our Plan

The UK education system is failing to prepare young people for 21st century jobs, according to a radical new report, Our plan for 14-19 Education; Coherent, Unified, Holistic, published by the Edge Foundation on 6 July 2017.

The focus on academic qualifications and exam grades is failing to equip young people with the skills employers are crying out for and the economy needs, says the independent charity. Its eight point plan includes proposals to:

  • scrap the ‘pass or fail’ exam cliff edge for 16 year olds, instead creating a 14-19 phase
  • reintroduce young apprenticeships for 14 year olds
  • make work experience mandatory for all school children.

Edge CEO, Alice Barnard, said:

The government’s fixation on academic exams is betraying young people whose talents lie beyond passing exams. The wholly academic EBacc leaves no room for students to learn the technical and creative skills they need in our digitised age. By 2050 we will need more than three million additional skilled workers, but we have no strategy to give young people the skills they need for the real world.

It’s not about ripping it all up and starting again, or about changing institutions, but we need to implement a broad and balanced curriculum which makes learning relevant to the work place and equips young people for their working and broader lives.

Edge also advocates investing the £450 million saved from the dismantling of the Connexions careers service, directly in schools to provide careers information, advice and guidance. Each school would receive £106,000 to develop employer engagement programmes and mandatory work experience placements, helping to meet localised skills gaps while teaching students valuable employability skills.

Alice Barnard added:

Making learning relevant to the real world has been shown to raise engagement in the classroom, broaden career horizons and raise aspirations. If the government is serious about social mobility, it’s probably one of the most effective things it can do to level the playing field and support young people without the social capital their better off peers enjoy.

A digital copy of the report is available to download here.

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