NC15: Memorandum submitted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)
1. The British Chambers of Commerce welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Children, Schools and Families Committee inquiry: The National Curriculum The British Chambers of Commerce is the national voice of local businesses, acting on behalf of a network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.
2. Representing over 100,000 businesses and 5 million employees, Chambers of Commerce are the Ultimate Business Network. Lying at the heart of their local community, Chambers serve all businesses with a passion no-one else can match.
3. The BCC welcomes the proposals to get businesses more involved in the curriculum and allowing pupils to experience the workplace, but is concerned about whether the national curriculum prepares young people for work. Over 55% of businesses find it more difficult to recruit skilled staff than they did five years ago[i].
4. The National Curriculum at present does not provide school leavers with the generic employability skills that businesses are looking for including right attitude, willingness to learn, communication skills and confidence. These skills should be learnt through a good education and it is then for the employer to build upon these to provide the employee with the specific skills they need for their job.
5. As well as the general attributes sighted above it is important that school leavers should have mastered the basic skills in English, Maths and IT and BCC believes it desirable that they have an understanding of business and enterprise. We welcome the drive to boost basic skills but feedback from employers indicate some school leavers are still not equipped with these essential competences.
6. In addition, all school leavers need education and training rather than education or training and that this is not currently reflected in the curriculum. The BCC was disappointed that the vocational and academic routes were not merged into one overarching diploma and believes that this policy would lead to vocational qualifications being held in higher esteem.
7. We broadly welcome the proposals for businesses to be involved in the national curriculum of the new diplomas but have some reservations. Small businesses will need to get practical support to allow them to take on work experience students and the capacity and regulatory issues must be resolved. However, involving businesses in the curriculum and the commitment to increasing opportunities for pupils to learn at work are welcomed.
[i] This figure is taken from our March 2007 report 'UK Skills: Making the Grade'