Memorandum submitted by Edge Foundation (CS 09)
1. The Edge Foundation broadly welcomes the Children, Schools and Families Bill. However, we believe the aims of education should explicitly include developing the wider skills and attributes needed for adult life, including teamwork, problem solving and an ability to communicate with confidence. We recommend that the Bill should be strengthened by giving young people an entitlement to experience practical, hands-on learning both inside and outside the classroom.
The aims of education
2. The CSF Bill would enable the Secretary of State to issue a pupil guarantee, based on a set of ambitions. As stated in Clause 1 (4), the pupil ambitions are:
a. for all pupils to go to schools where there is good behaviour, strong discipline, order and safety;
b. for all pupils to go to schools where they are taught a broad, balanced and flexible curriculum and where they acquire skills for learning and life;
c. for all pupils to go to schools where they are taught in ways that meet their needs, where their progress is regularly checked and where particular needs are identified early and quickly addressed;
d. for all pupils to go to schools where they take part in sporting and cultural activities;
e. for all pupils to go to schools where their health and well-being are promoted, where they are able to express their views and where both they and their families are welcomed and valued.
3. These aims are laudable, but there is a gap between the ambitions and (a) the wider aims of education and (b) the way we measure young people's progress and achievements.
4. As drafted, Clause 1 (2) of the Bill only says the Secretary of State may issue guidelines about aims and objectives to local authorities, teachers and others.
5. We believe the clause should require the Secretary of State to publish a statement of the wider aims of education, including the skills and qualities young people should develop while they are at school.
6. For example, all young people should learn how to work as part of a team. They should develop an ability to solve practical problems. They need to understand how to communicate with people in many different situations. They need to know how to find and use information. And they need to appreciate the huge range of opportunities that await them in the future world of work.
7. Skills and abilities such as teamwork cannot be measured by exam results alone. Nor can they be learned solely by listening and reading. The best way for young people to develop these qualities is through first-hand experience and practice.
8. Edge therefore recommends that a sixth ambition be added to Clause 1 (4):
f. for all pupils to experience practical, hands-on learning both inside and outside the classroom.
9. There is strong support for this. Edge commissioned YouGov to survey young people, parents, teachers and employers in September and October 2009. 46% of young people in Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) said there are not enough opportunities for practical learning at school, against only 4% who said there are too many. Support from parents is similar: 42% feel there is too little practical learning in schools, and only 6% think there is too much. Among teachers, 39% say there is too little practical learning, and 4% that there is too much. Furthermore, 68% of employers say not enough people in the job market have the right practical skills and vocational qualifications.
10. In addition, Edge believes that the school report cards proposed by the government should include an explicit assessment of how well schools develop the wider skills and qualities young people need for adult life, and how well (and how often) they provide opportunities for practical, hands-on learning for all their pupils.
Changes to the National Curriculum
11. Edge broadly welcomes changes to the National Curriculum at Key Stages 2 and 3, as set out in Clause 10. These are based on recommendations made by Sir Jim Rose, and provide for six areas of learning:
a. understanding English, communication and languages,
b. mathematical understanding,
c. scientific and technological understanding,
d. historical, geographical and social understanding,
e. understanding the arts, and
f. understanding physical development, health and well-being.
12. Edge also welcomes Clauses 10 and 11, which would make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) a statutory part of the National Curriculum.
13. In both cases, however, we believe there should be a much more explicit link with the aims of education, and particularly to the skills and qualities mentioned above - skills such as teamwork, and the ability to communicate confidently with adults. There should also be an explicit entitlement to learn outside the classroom, including practical, hands-on projects which link schools to the world of work.