Vox Pop: Poor School Skills, More Training Needs?

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Sarah Fletcher asked members of TrainingZONE whether the government's recent pledge to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18 will boost basic skills and ensure new employees have the qualifications required by businesses. Are training departments forced to provide skills training for more staff because of poor school standards?

The entire education system needs a rehaul
"No - how is raising the school leaving age going to improve the quality of education in the UK? When less than half of children can read or write or add up by the time they are 16 a major overhaul is required somewhere but it's not by imprisoning children in school for longer - it's time to revise the curriculum to teach what is needed, to reduce requirements for those who struggle so that they focus on important life skills, to have effective and useful vocational education from a young age (why is there a shortage of plumbers? because we don't teach bored 14 year olds who don't want to go to university and who hate academic subjects but would love to work with their hands).

"It is time to stop the obsession with children attending university and concentrate on useful skills for the large percentage of children who are not able enough to do so. It may hurt to say that not all children can take advantage of higher and further education - but it is true. Teaching to ability makes for happier, healthier learners and would lead to children not falling into the NEET category but enable them to begin fulfilling and rewarding careers. We can't all be rocket scientists, but we can all succeed.

"As for teachers - they are going to need to be better skilled and better rewarded to make a real impact in all this."
Nik Kellingley, Training Consultant

Extending the leaving age is a waste of time
"I believe that if they haven't got the basics by 16, the money would be better spent finding out why and improving the current system, getting back to the 'three Rs'. I do think that there are many people who have a practical, rather than an academic aptitude and something like the old apprentice system would better serve them and ensure that vital trade skills are not lost (try finding a decent plumber!). For a lot of the youngsters forced to stay when they would normally leave at 16, making them stay on at school would probably lead to truancy anyway! Or maybe that's just me being cynical."
Sue Beatt

It's good if it means more vocational skills
"My personal view is that we need to distinguish between the mechanism and the outcome. Increasing the leaving age is a mechanism - which may be popular with some and unpopular with others – but success will depend on what is done with the time. Directly equipping people for work has not been the main aim of education, but if staying on at school means giving more options for developing vocational skills as well as academic ones, this seems like a good idea to me.

"As to numeracy and literacy, many organisations are having to provide some basic skills training options for staff. In an ideal world everyone leaving school would be fully competent in these areas. But in the real world they are not, and most good employers recognise that it is better to provide these cornerstone skills late rather than not at all."
Graham O'Connell


Focus on what's important
"While this will do great things for unemployment statistics there are some young people that perform better out of the education environment, so why slow them down? getting a low grade is not a sign of failure - just a sign that the school system does not work for their learning preferences. Let's look at the real need curriculum for this age group - maths - adding, subtracting, basic finance etc rather than algebra (unused by 90 percent of the population). English, comprehension in the real world, if they want to read books then make that a separate qualification - lets keep English real, the practical competence for living, not academia."
Mike Morrison, Consultant

"Life based" skills are crucial
"I think it will help, although the later education needs to take into account more "life based" skills rather than purely academic. For example, the fact that there is a massive debt problem amongst the 18–25 demographic could possibly have something to do with the fact that debt management isn't taught at schools. You can apply this to a number of subjects that school leavers will need in the real world, including entrepreneurial skills, financial management etc. Merely increasing the time won't do very much in my opinion. In the second part of your question, I think training departments should be more aware of training needs in areas like maths and English, but this should be on a relevance and needs basis and should be provided if there is a definite need there, not just because they haven't done too well in their GCSEs."
Rich Lucas, Trainer

Schools are missing basic learning difficulties
"I teach at a university and many students lack basic skills, including literacy and numeracy. These are students who have continued in post-16 education, studying A levels and their equivalents, yet still have deficits in basic skills. If existing post-16 education hasn't remedied these deficits I doubt that raising the school leaving age, in order to force all students to remain in full time education until age 18, will be any more successful. There is something fundamentally wrong when, after 12 years full time education, many 16-year olds with GCSE grades A to C in English and maths are leaving school with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

"Universities are having to meet increasing demands for help with basic skills, and the first year of many degree courses is largely taken up with attempting to remedy these deficits. Sometimes the problem relates to dyslexia or another learning difficulty. This dyslexia hasn't suddenly developed during late teens or early twenties, it has been present throughout childhood and adolescence but has not been identified until the person reached university. Employers even complain that some graduate employees are lacking basic skills; this indicates to me that attempts by universities to remedy deficits in key skills are not entirely successful. A truly sorry state of affairs. This proposal suggests to me that politicians are out of touch with what is happening in the real world.

"One implication for trainers is that some trainees may not be able to understand the training material, such as instructions for workshop activities, and may need help to complete a training evaluation form."
Eddie Newall

* Related story and comments: Education and Training to be Compulsory for Under-18s.

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