Tuesday, 19 May 2015 09:02 As a new UK Government takes its place, charged with leading the country for the next five years, it is a natural point to stop and take stock of where as a country we need to prioritise our thinking and resources.
Education comes very near the top of any action list designed to improve our national prospects and make us a stronger, more prosperous and competitive nation.
Past Government-led, education-related policies have tended to lurch from one extreme to another, during periods when short-term popular tactics have often taken precedent over longer-term strategic planning.
I believe the time has now come to put an end to such a short-sighted approach and with it the nigh impossible challenge of measuring the impact of, for example, qualification policy changes that are often not given enough time to work through the system.
Instead, we should look to instigate a far more cohesive and joined-up UK education system; one that supports the needs of learners and gives the country the kind of flexible, skilled and confident workforce our businesses are going to require in the future.
A joined-up approach
A good starting point would be to undertake a comprehensive review of the entire current education and skills system. Analysing how we can better integrate primary education with further and higher education, and include adult education and programmes associated with getting people back to work, could lay the groundwork for a far more unified system.
Instead of focussing as at present upon isolated islands of education, by looking at the education journey from beginning to end, and assessing critical elements such as teaching capacity, resources, funding and training, we can at least begin to map out and assess if the current system is ‘fit-for-purpose’ to deliver the kind of future education outcomes we all aspire to.
This should also include a review of course and qualification content to assess if the skills we are teaching young people today are truly appropriate for the world of work they will encounter in five, ten, or fifteen years’ time?
It is a massive undertaking, but one that deserves sympathetic consideration. Central to its success would be a consensus across all political parties that a holistic long-term solution is required, rather than short-termism, which, unfortunately, has been the case over recent decades.
Any manufacturing operation worth its salt forensically examines the end-to-end process it has to undertake to produce its goods. They understand their starting point and they know what outcome they wish to see. All the constituents parts in between are cohesively joined together, or else the system fails.
The education journey must start to be seen in the same way.
A longer-term view allows the true impact of measures and policies to be monitored and reported upon fairly, away from the transitory nature of politics and the shadow of five year terms that often mean sound strategic decision-making is forsaken at the expense of short-term popularity.
To achieve it, fresh thinking and cross-party support is required. Once the review path is set, it needs to be left alone to take its course to help create the integrated and consistent education system our young people deserve and our country needs.
Charlotte Bosworth is director of skills and employment at awarding body OCR