Memorandum submitted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
1.0 Introduction to the FSB
1.1 The FSB is the UK's leading non-party political lobbying group of UK small businesses, existing to promote and protect the interests of all who own and manage their own business. With over 210,000 members, the FSB is also the largest organisation representing small and medium sized businesses in the UK.
2.0 Key issues
2.1 The FSB is supportive of a national curriculum; however the focus of the curriculum does need to change if the education sector is to provide young people with fundamental employability and life skills.
2.2 The FSB advocates an education system where the twin pillars of enterprise and employability are engrained within the curriculum. We also feel that providing young people with options at the earliest stage of their development will help them choose the most suitable career path.
2.3 The average person will spend the majority of their life within the workplace so it is critical for the education system to provide them with all the necessary tools to fulfil their employment potential. Employability skills should be taught to school students from the start of Key Stage 3.
3.0 What do small businesses want from school leavers?
3.1 An effective national curriculum should provide the literacy, numeracy and softer skills required by employers. This will enable employees to create a positive impression on their first day of employment.
Small businesses do not have the time or the resources to pay for basic skills training, caused by failures within the education system. Small businesses gain by training employees in the skills needed to perform effectively within their job.
4.1 Principle and Content of the National Curriculum and Its Fitness‑for‑Purpose
4.1.1 The FSB is supportive of a national curriculum which:
· features a system of streaming at an even younger age than 14
· sets out broad principles rather than detailed aims and objectives
· develops the key skills of literacy, numeracy, team-working and team-leading as they are essential to business
· focuses on providing young people with fundamental employability and life skills.
4.1.2 Teachers should be given more independence, within a broad structure, to direct their teaching methods in ways which will make pupils more employable and enable them to make a smooth transition into the workplace.
4.2 Management of the National Curriculum
The FSB opposes a 50% target figure of young people entering higher education. We feel that a target driven education system leads to higher drop out rates. The completion levels of qualifications are of greater importance.
4.2.1 Vocational-based Diplomas, available from September 2008, will run parallel to the traditional academic route. We welcome this new system on the understanding that young people will be given the option at 14 whether to go down the vocational path, academic route or a combination of both.
4.2.2 The FSB supports the concept of personalised learning. We understand the rationale to be:
"to raise standards by focusing teaching and learning on the aptitudes and interests of pupils"
However, we would like to see a further reference to teachers and schools playing a part in focusing young people's minds towards employment.
4.2.3 The FSB feel that the role of the new style Qualifications and Curriculum Authority should be to dedicate a percentage of the curriculum on enterprise and employability. Young people ought to be given practical lessons on the essential skills that employers are looking for in order to succeed when they reach working age.
4.2.4 Teachers play a key role in a young person's development so they must have a role in the development of the National Curriculum. To ensure full understanding of employers' needs, teachers should spend periods of the year within the workplace to get first hand experience of the necessary skills required by businesses of all sizes.
14 March 2008
 DCSF website: About Personalised learning: http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/personalisedlearning/about/