Memorandum submitted by CASE (E&S 11)
CASE is the Campaign for State Education and has been in existence in the U.K. for forty years.
CASE believes in an education system that is fair to all children, young people and their parents and which has the resources to provide excellent quality.
CASE welcomes proposals that will extend access to and improve the quality of education and training for young people. In general terms, we believe that the Bill is a correct step forward in this respect but can only be effective if it meets the aspirations and needs of young people in a way that is meaningful and acceptable to them.
CASE lists some concerns about aspects of the Bill as presently conceived but also makes some suggestions, which it is hoped might improve the chances of the Bill being effective in its aims.
What CASE thinks - the Memorandum
1. CASE welcomes proposals that will improve the quality of education and training for young people. However, we are not convinced that the Bill in its present form will achieve this for all participants. The proposals in the Bill can only be effective if they meet the aspirations and needs of young people in a way that is meaningful to them.
2. CASE believes that a group of young people who have severe personal problems or have become disenchanted with or disengaged from schooling before the age of 16 are unlikely to be able to benefit positively from the processes presently envisaged in the Bill.
3. CASE has grave concerns about the compulsion on young people to participate in education and training until 18 by placing a duty on them. We also oppose the punitive nature of parts of the Bill in terms of criminalising young people and their parents. There must be no criminalisation of young people because of their study difficulties. The education system is already unable to engage many of the most vulnerable and disaffected young people up to the age of 16 and we see no evidence that more compulsion will help up to 18.
4. In practice, criminalisation will mainly target precisely the young people who have "lost-out" at school and who are likely to be the ones who most need help, support and convincing to participate again and that such participation would be in their (rather than others' ) interests. Engaging youngsters who are already disenchanted will require patience, investment of time and close support via mentoring, for example and, therefore, considerable funding.
5. The emphasis of cultural change must be on why young people are not remaining in education and how they can be engaged and also financially supported to do so, as many may come from economically deprived backgrounds. Continuing with EMA is assumed as a minimum. It may be possible to have part-time employment as well as training and further education. Some may delay such involvement but better those come to education voluntarily than be coerced before they are ready to benefit. Mentors can be used to draw out sensible and timely choices. Students should be consulted at all stages about what they want and their views should be taken seriously.
6. CASE believes that there would be more success in retaining young people in education and training if a culture were to be developed nationally where extension to 18 (or 20) is the norm. This culture may be developed during the envisaged run-in time of six years from the Bill's beginning, especially if there is flexibility in Key Stage 4 accompanied by excellent quality in IAG. Many youngsters respond excellently to practical learning rather than the somewhat theoretical nature of the academic diet in secondary schools, which they may see as irrelevant to them. Literacy and Numeracy are often more successfully taught through practical situations. CASE also believes that employers should be able to accredit on-the-job accomplishments and that employers' associations and the QCA should be able to validate steps made to achieve this.
7. CASE does not believe there is enough evidence that current initiatives are effective i.e. that employers, specially smaller ones are prepared to offer jobs with high quality training, even if there are financial incentives. Unless the Government can produce a firm commitment from enough employers and training institutions, then the Bill may fail.
8. The Government needs to consider implications for employers and whether there can be sufficient financial or other incentives, particularly for small companies to make them offer opportunities and not to eschew the employing of 16-18 (or 20) year olds in favour of older people for whom they may not need to provide compulsory training. The whole issue of disincentives to return to study, which may apply here or sometimes apply to the unemployed or in "back to work" schemes needs addressing simultaneously with this Bill. Employers may need to be persuaded that training a person whom they may later lose from their employ is not necessarily uneconomic if they are likely to employ someone who has a good level of general training from another employer, in turn. It is the overall national culture that will govern this.
9. A commitment to young people with special needs is particularly welcome but the support must be properly funded and will not come cheap. Given the performance on special needs funding in education generally, the omens for this are not promising.
10. If schools are charged with providing effective careers advice there must be a commitment to resourcing the service fully and to training staff to provide the appropriate and motivational advice. The advice must be independently given by advisers who are not specifically associated with any of the local institutions in the form of having any vested interests. Inevitably, parents and students tend to be more familiar with the secondary school "menu" because this is often all that they know. Giving genuine and accurate information about other career lines is a skilled role and might be advantageously combined with some practical visits and experiences to back up advice on the less well-known career paths. Some provision to allow for youngsters to alter their programme of learning if it is clear they have valid reasons to change should be made acceptable.
11. Apprenticeships on offer must reflect the career choices of young people and lead to viable full time employment. CASE would again like to see evidence that the LSC will be able to provide for proper apprenticeships for both 16-18 year olds and over 19s.
12. CASE still wonders why there is not one inspection system with one internally consistent set of criteria for the standards of education in all comprehensives, independent schools and Academies and CTCs. Does the Government actually wish there to be different schools with different perceived standards? CASE would believe that there should be sufficient common ground in the education provided in all schools such that a common set of inspection criteria could be successfully applied via Ofsted.
13. CASE is concerned that the Bill's provision to allow the recognition of bodies wishing to award or authenticate qualifications could unleash a mass of miscellaneous qualifications that will be confusing and useless to the public or to employers unless this right is restricted. CASE envisages that employers' associations might have this right as opposed to individual employers.
14. CASE understands that the QCA is to be newly designated or interpreted as an "arm of government". If this is so, we would oppose this move and respectfully suggest that QCA should be an independent organisation.
15. CASE is concerned that in rural areas, the provision of transport to employers or to colleges is needed in order to provide genuine choice of career pathway to young people. CASE anticipates that the cost of this would be very large but without it there will be no effective choice of activity for young people in such geographically spread communities.
16. Whilst CASE accepts that in certain circumstances, it is inevitable that Governors should take steps to direct pupils to learn outside of school, on grounds of behaviour, this should be seen as a last resort to avoid stigmatising the youngsters concerned. Nearly all youngsters are capable of changing their behaviour for the better given the needed time and skilled attention, perhaps by the mentors suggested in the Children's Plan.