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Improving Social Mobility is about addressing the way decision makers think, not about academic education alone

October 8, 2018 1 comment

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The three key misunderstandings and fallacious barriers to Social Mobility are:

  • That Social Mobility issues only affect young people who are in career development years
  • That the only way to improve Social Mobilty is through ensuring that everyone achieves a ‘full’ academic education and that the attainment of degrees is key
  • That Social Mobility issues relate to the achievement, progress or outlook of the individual and nobody else

With one evolution of the Social Mobility Commission having resigned because of lack of Government support and another now appointed in the image of all the same Establishment ideas, the key issues underpinning lack of progress in tackling the barriers to Social Mobility are still being overlooked and this travesty is set to continue further still.

As is often the case when a cause is given a label, the Social Mobility problem is an issue which has become closely aligned with just one interpretation of its cause. This closes down debate and dialogue about the much wider range of issues which attribute to reducing opportunities. It also excludes consideration of a wider malaise and certainly overlooks the real impact on not only the individuals affected themselves, but also upon the wider community as a whole.

Yes, many young people are overlooked because of the start they had in life. The place in which they lived. The schools which they did and did not attend. The qualifications which they did or didn’t gain.

But the reality is that it is a very long list of factors which prevent any one person from progressing.

The interpretation of someones validity on the road to progress and passing these barriers is not simply restricted to that of employers, educators or any of the external gatekeepers of opportunity.

No. The perception of not being good enough to overcome any barrier to Social Mobility can be that of the individual all on their own.

The obstruction to unhindered Social Mobility, is the many prejudices which are not and cannot be managed by regulation or by the methods of review and reform which have become the cultural norm in this Country.

In a society which has learned to make effect synonymous with cause, we overlook the real causes of societal problems and as such have no way to address the consequential effects.

The social justice warriors, the politically correct, the rights lobby and liberal left all congratulate themselves on the strangle hold of regulation which decades of manipulation and social engineering have helped them impose.

Yet the rules which govern Equality of Opportunity in their purest sense have actually made prejudices easier to employ.

Only now, beyond the scope of the processes which assure us that prejudices have been all but removed, they are less likely to be evidenced and hide in plain sight.

Yes, we have regulation against gender and sex discrimination. Race discrimination. Disabilities discrimination, Religion, Age and sexual orientation too.

But in creating these frameworks or safety notes, the idealistic engineers of this ill-considered social plan have provided the perfect opportunity for people to surrender ethical responsibility to being seen to adhere to the set of rules which now exist. They have been given a set of pillars that once worshipped, allow them to do whatever they want to by behaving in ways which legitimately go around these rules or sit somewhere in the spaces in between.

We now not only have a situation where decision makers can quietly be racist, sexist, or are allowed to quietly indulge any other prejudice we might not collectively like. They can continue to do so unimpeded.

The consequences of this ‘big vision’ engineering project create many other problems too. Problems which include disadvantaging the already disadvantaged and building barriers to progress which the very same people will now never cross.

And guess what. Yes. We find again that achievements exist only for the same few to easily win all over again.

Take for example the assault on the education system that the Blair Government undertook, with the overt aim of giving everyone the opportunity to gain a degree.

The result has been the commercialisation of the further and higher education system, leading to the prioritisation of winning fees, rather than focusing on the quality and commercial durability of the education provided. Running education as a business has almost certainly put its future in serious doubt.

It is a process which has already led hundreds and thousands of hopeful young people to begin professional life in serious debt and with academic qualifications which are to many businesses completely worthless.

Yet the debt-laiden graduates only find out too late that these quack qualifications don’t mean much at all to the world around them once they have left the supposed safety of the academic universe behind.

The world of big business and its new world of ‘created roles and specialisms’ has responded to the glorifying of academic qualification over the benefit of time-served experience by recognising degrees as a standard for anybody worth looking at. Not as a way to recognise specialism in itself. But as a like-for-like replacement in recent years for what would previously have been well illustrated by the attainment of 3 A’Levels, and only a few years before that just 5 GCSE’s.

Not everyone is cut out to be a CEO, Director or even a manager and non-academic people bring value to business which only when added to the contribution of real academics can it add up to a formula which is so much more.

Yet the dangerous mix created by this non-stop meddling has fuelled the entitlement culture. Qualification has become more valuable than experience and experience is not of value to those who have qualifications.

Letters on a CV are seen as more important than attitude, motivation, or the many other life skills which business used to intrinsically value, which they now overlook. The system now unwittingly leads them to place applications from people who would should be the next generation of commercial superstars straight in the bin.

It doesn’t stop there, and within a tick box, risk-averse culture where Recruiters and HR Officers – that’s people who have and never will do these jobs themselves – have overwhelming power over recruitment processes, there is an untamed focus on identifying reasons to not even shortlist candidates – usually because they don’t have a degree.

Good people are now denied jobs where they can thrive and the employers and companies themselves never gain access to the wider pool of candidates where the real benefits of selecting people with the right experience rather than just a paper qualification lies.

The consequences of this social meddling are already far reaching indeed and because the UK could never afford to provide education to 21 years as a standard – which in itself was never needed, it was inevitable that a new form of educational discrimination would introduce itself. And it’s the worst one of all. The preclusion from opportunity for even more young people based simply on cost.

Just in this one example of social meddling focusing on education alone, where impractical idealists have tried to impose a system of restrictions based upon no experience that they have or have in no way never known, we can see how far reaching the impact on consequences of quixotic thinking can be.

This is a pattern which is unfolding itself over and over again within all the areas of our lives where lack of consideration has been applied to the consequences of imposing the ‘consideration’ of rights and ‘positive’ discrimination on a society which will always have its own mind and not the one which political busy-bodies which to create for it.

The barriers to Social Mobility are all about the way that we think.

But the change needed and the tools which will enable us to break down those barriers and make that change will only come when decision makers with the power and therefore the ability to oversee that change go through a voluntary process of accepting that they themselves need to think differently.

That change will come about as a direct result.

That change cannot and never will be imposed.

 

Idealism has given young people unattainable expectations within a land of the financially enslaved, where unhappiness is enhanced at a push-button rate

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

download (13)Verbal head scratching has for many months dominated the media, as our influencers and opinion writers try to come to terms with what really happened for the Labour Party at last Summers General Election.

Of course, the perplexity doesn’t stop there. Somewhere in an office near the Palace of Westminster, a Conservative Party which looks rudderless and without any sincere intention, is desperate to emulate a link with our Nation’s young people; one which appeareances tell them only Jeremy Corbyn could invent.

That people of any age can be intoxicated by drink, drugs, or by the romanticism of the political ideal that everybody should be treated in a same-size-fits-all category is nothing new. Joining a group to further the interests of ourselves is after all hardly something new. Yet the motivation for doing so for each of us will never be exactly the same.

Sadly, politics in the UK has been without real substance for a long time. Policy is made reactively in a very focused way. It does little more than address the effects of issues, rather than going any great distance towards tackling the causes themselves.

Against such a backdrop as this, it has become very easy for politicians to make hollow promises. Corbyn’s soon rescinded promise over scrapping tuition fees for university students was clearly one such gesture. But a population which has been conditioned to believe that we can trust in our leaders and political parties without question simply doesn’t look beyond the words as they are heard – whether it considers itself to be left, right, leave or remain.

Labour’s vote winning stunt is pertinent not because it is political or because it appears to have worked as it was intended. It is illustrative of the complexity of this real problem because it highlights the presence of many questions that politicians should not only be asking – but also answering. Questions about why the various experiences of the politically disenfranchised are now being so well exemplified by the experience of the young.

Higher Education is just one area affecting real lives which has seen its value overturned, whilst giving the surface deep appearance and sense of even greater opportunity being presented to all.

Young people are being actively encouraged to commit themselves to lifetime borrowing to take a wide range of degrees which themselves are increasingly considered by industry to be worthless in terms of the skills that they teach. The students themselves understandably believing that they will automatically find themselves within a glittering career just as soon as they leave full time education.

The commercialisation of the higher education sector has added to the problem considerably. The priority of what at one time would have been arguably some of the best academic tuition available in the world, having now been shifted from the quality of teaching itself, to the accumulation of profit and nothing else. The recent cases of outrageous pay for university leaders is all you will need to read.

Whichever way you look at it, the emphasis is about money. And the experience of education is just where this process begins.

Having been sold the faulty bill of goods which a degree education for many has now become, the opportunities to secure work which will enable young people to quickly move on without a need to go home to their parents is increasingly hard to find.

Profiteering in the housing market has made entry level purchases and tenancies impossible for many. Property prices being exponentially inflated beyond even their realistic ball-park level, with values now being pitched at the ground in the next town and probably way beyond.

The work which is available to many graduates offers career prospects way below what a degree level entrant had been taught to expect when they made their academic choice.

With the attainment of all degrees being deliberately sold to everyone as an academic elixir which will make a graduate in some way better than anyone else, it is little wonder that many see some occupations as simply being beneath them, not only as a job title itself, but in terms of the tasks they will now accept even as they are being on-the-job trained.

Effortless attainment has become the expectation of the next generation. It is backed up by an instant response culture of a click-button-world. And with media saturation reaching the point where we can perceive almost anyone as being accessible to us on our phones or in our own front room, it is little wonder that every young person who is prepared to do what they are told, expects that life will instantly reward them by appointing them as a rock star, MP or CEO.

The young and therefore all of us have been failed by the creation and propogation of a land of unattainable expectation. A fallacious future based on hollow promises, so that politicians can bathe in the glory of transient electoral and policy wins which add up to little more than pyrrhic victories.

For an entire population, a value set which reflects a practical, obtainable and satisfactory level of reality has now been denied. Aspiration has now been usurped by the need for glory and this is a prize you can only win if you make it big financially too.

Generations of politicians are responsible for this perfect storm. They represent all parties, and even those who are today continuing to perpetuate this evolution of chaos, would not recognise a pathway which for many others is already beginning to feel like doom.

The impractical idealism and romanticism of the left has created the illusion for some that a utopia exists where each of us can be equal whilst becoming a king or queen over all. This has been no less devastating than the unleashing of unregulated markets under the increasingly influential neoliberalism of the right, which demonstrates that it really is only those who have unfettred access to money who have any perceived form of real power. Very few of us believe in or have faith in the ability for us all to experience something beneficial in-between.

If government continues to do nothing to resolve this problem, we remain on target to become a Nation lost.

Yet resolution is not just as simple as the exchange of a few simple ideas.

After all, any person who would just like to live a simple lifestyle, without money, is in a position where they simply cannot.

 

image thanks to unknown

Degree level entry for all Police Officers is a retrograde step which will push a common sense approach to policing even further away down the bureaucratic queue

December 22, 2016 Leave a comment

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With everything happening across the political and public sector world feeling so very uncertain already, it will have come as a surprise to many that the Government has allowed the College of Policing to announce that candidates wishing to become Police Officers will be required to have Degrees from 2020.

The reasoning cited behind this move is the increasing level of activity within the role including the research which Police Officers are required to undertake online. But is this itself really justification enough to raise the bar to an occupation and public service which in recent years has been a key target to become a lighthouse of diversity?

Information Technology and ‘web fluency’ levels are arguably highest within the generation now reaching the workplace at 16 and above – irrespective of the level of formal education they have attained, simply because use of smartphones and PCs to access the web has now reached a point of social permeation where children are culturally conditioned in their use. To suggest otherwise would arguably demonstrate just how seriously out of touch our policy makers have now become.

Cyber-crime has become increasingly prevalent. But it has not in any way superseded the need for real-world policing, which has itself become painfully absent in recent years as a mix of bureaucracy and the public sector funding crisis have hit the Police Service very hard indeed. The widespread perception exists that the physical presence of our Police forces have now dwindled to a point where it would logical for us to ask if our communities are really safe.

The concept that more can be delivered using less is one that is now followed in every sector. In some cases there are significant efficiencies that can be made within organisations of all descriptions, particularly when new technology can reduce the workload or requirement of staff numbers. However, this is not without consequence as the current raft of strikes in the UK have arguably displayed. There is also a significant question to be addressed regarding these economies being made when the financial benefit has become the priority over the experience of the customer or members of the public.

Like many, I grew up with a respect for the Police which is increasingly hard to justify, given the level and type of interaction which Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers now have within the community. The focus on a system of delivery where you once felt that a Police Constable really did have autonomy as they enforced and represented the Law appears to have long since left the building. It appears to have been replaced with a bureaucratic nightmare where Officers now have to look over their shoulders before they decide either to engage or to act.

It may seem romantic, but an age where a Police Officer didn’t have to resort to making arrests or presenting Court Summons to achieve a real-life result with ‘petty crime’ was not so long in the past. Yes, these Officers of the Law did not have to chase their quarry online, but they also engaged with would-be criminals in a much more meaningful way. One which was adapted to the specific circumstances they were addressing and did not result in so many young people being tarred by acts of stupidity which with the arrival of the net itself, have become far too accessible to the people looking for controversy who need no degree to go searching for any mud that can easily be used to stick.

Most of those less senior Officers had very little formal education. But what they did have was life experience and common sense by the bag load; the essential ingredient for constructive interaction with people of all levels and of all kinds.

Being ‘streetwise’ isn’t something that can be taught from a text book. One of the simple facts that the College of Policing may be seriously overlooking, is that degree level students want to earn their money straight away. University leavers will not have the world view or wherewithal that the public should be able to expect any Police Officer to have, whilst waiting for the graduates who would make ideal police officers to gain experience in other occupations first may prove to be a fruitless exercise given that they will probably stay in other safer, more lucrative and perhaps even more rewarding careers if they have by then already found them.

Police Officers in the UK already undergo extensive training to support them in their roles, and extra modules to support non-specialist officers to fit their IT skills to the purposes of our Law enforcement regime would be no quantum leap for those who have qualified for entry by today’s terms.

Sadly, this move towards elitism within the Police Service has all the hallmarks of taking one very large step in the progress of bureaucracy too far and risks disenfranchising communities from those in power beyond that too.

 

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Free Childcare and The CBI: Big business itself has a lot more of a role to play than just identifying a need, just as Government does through the development of not-for-profit provision and Social Enterprise…

November 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The CBI has today said that Government must create more free childcare, and on the face of it they are certainly right.

But is it only the Government’s responsibility to provide the support mechanisms which enable parents to work when business will be one of the biggest beneficiaries too?

Childcare costs play a much bigger role in the earning potential, wellbeing and general happiness of families with very young children and low incomes than really ever seems to be fully acknowledged. Yet this, and the reality that the period of support and nurture before school for all children is just as important as the years between the ages of 4 and 18 seems to be treated as anything but.

Schemes such as nursery vouchers help, but are in many ways arguably little more than a gimmick for politicians, or a fire-and-forget incentive for some employers. The privately owned monopoly of early years care which currently provides this support to parents is after all significantly profit based, whilst providing services that like schools, are actually required for the benefit of the wider community as a whole.

Like it or not, the days have now long since passed when the average nuclear family could be maintained on one wage alone. The option for one parent to stay at home during the formative years of their young children is a luxury that for many is simply financially impossible. Yet the lack of genuinely affordable quality childcare provision can soon remove any real choice and the likelihood of both or of a single parent prioritising work when there is a real cost in quality of life to the child or children concerned, without any benefit elsewhere – is hardly any choice at all.

From this perspective, what the CBI is saying may well be fundamentally right, and when Government has long since provided free education as the basic right – and indeed requirement for every child, it does seem rather odd that the system so squarely favours the use of private care in the pre-school years.

However, there is a very large ‘but’ to all this.

Whilst business representatives may be correct in identifying a key barrier to entry for people seeking a return to the workplace, is it not very questionable to place the emphasis of responsibility squarely at the door of Government when it is not only the employees, but the businesses themselves which in many cases will ultimately benefit too?

Making the choice easy for parents to return to the workplace after the birth of a child should be a priority for any Government that considers its responsibilities to the people it represents in a wholly balanced and fair way. However, most problems like this have in the past been solved by writing a cheque, and the days when politicians could just solve problems by throwing money at them have long since gone.

To the CBI, the suggested cost of £300 Million might not sound like a great deal. But when you consider that this figure would equate to nearly £700K off the budget of every single principle Local Authority in the UK – and then give thought to what that would then mean in the terms of cuts to services that such a figure would in a shifting of priorities bring, you can quickly see how a sum of this kind could hardly come without any significant strings, wherever the money comes from.

Somebody somewhere is always losing out. Government doesn’t have the money to provide the services that it already does, and whilst borrowing sounds like a very attractive idea to politicians who are buried in the complexities of what will probably have been one of the longest General Election campaigns in history, it is the result of this approach time and again before, that sees the current UK debt at beyond £1 Trillion and accumulating at a rate of over £5K per second.

We do need either local authorities and social enterprise to provide a quality alternative to privately owned and operated nurseries. Especially so for parents working for small businesses or who are self employed themselves.

Like an increasing number of different areas within local government which are moving towards entrepreneurial projects in order to maintain existing services and potentially attract funds to support others, Education Authorities could, and arguably should be developing services such as day nurseries and crèche’s which charge fees, but keep the fee levels real and in keeping with what is affordable for those parents working in low paid jobs.

But for others, who experience these difficulties just the same, but work for much larger, perhaps corporate level companies, their employers have a role to play too. Bigger companies could arguably provide these services at a much lower cost than a third party organisation or independent not-for-profit organisation could ever do so, whilst providing on-site services that for many of the employees concerned could take their work experience into an entirely different league.

Yes, some employers do already offer such services on-site. But the benefits of offering on site nurseries and crèches within all businesses where it would be possible to do so could be untold; run completely at cost, and also potentially opened up to support other parents from the communities which surround large employment sites – where outreach could almost certainly always be improved.

Looking to others for the answer has regrettably become an all too familiar approach within a culture that inherently considers little more than profit, risk and the potential for blame.

So when it comes to the benefit that will no doubt come from the profitability of getting so many more of these parents back into work, the employers themselves should also have to pick up and carry more of the risks involved in providing the solutions that will make it attractive for parents to be happy to do so.

Government can and should do a whole lot more to support business growth and therefore increase the number of jobs available and the earning ability of the people within them. But business leaders also need to accept that they have a role to play in helping to support the lives of those they employ beyond work, and also recognise that there might be very positive results accepting that the two are not always mutually exclusive.

image: The Guardian

 

Education is currently failing the UK because the system we have in place today is based on the flawed idea that Equality is about sameness. True Equality comes with acceptance of the real differences that exist between us and in giving each and every one of us the best shot possible…

December 17, 2013 1 comment

images (2)Equality is one of the greatest aims for any Country to have, whilst perhaps one of the most misinterpreted and therefore destructive concepts that that the UK has embraced.

Negative forms of discrimination have made many thinkers believe that the solution comes in the form of their positive counterparts. Yet the point has been severely missed that prejudicial forms of discrimination always relate to a form of favouritism or bias as a flipside on the other, and that this inevitable partnership necessarily follows wherever a form of positive discrimination may be used.

Just as racism and colour prejudice, sexism, discrimination against the elderly or disabled have and arguably in some cases continue to been a problem for many, giving special treatment or creating favourable circumstances for specific or what some prefer to call ‘underrepresented groups’ can be equally destructive and in some cases will actually affect many more, through little more than a legitimised form of disadvantage which many are simply too afraid to even talk about.

Social engineering is nothing new. But the silent subjugation which hides beneath the velvet glove of political correctness and an often misguided war for equalities is something entirely different. It now risks the identity of culture which has been at the heart of British life for many generations and which arguably kept us at the forefront of world industry, science and learning well in to the 20th Century.

Of all the parts of life where we should be getting the fight for the equality of opportunity ‘right’, Education is probably the most essential, because of the key role that it plays for individuals, communities, industries and therefore the evolution of our entire culture – en-masse.

But at some point, somebody somewhere confused practicality with idealism. They exchanged the reality that being fair to everyone by giving them the educational opportunities that most fit individual need will give us all the best start in life, with the idealist view that putting everyone in the same environment and using the same forms of education, would somehow lead to everyone turning out the same.

It doesn’t. And the reason it doesn’t is because the only difference that should matter when it comes to education is that whatever the circumstances or how we are physically perceived by others, we are all different and we all learn differently.

So no matter what background we come from; whether we are rich or poor; black or white; male or female; able bodied or disabled, we all accumulate knowledge in different ways and will only achieve the very best that we as individuals can, if diversity within educational opportunities matches the diversity that exists with learning ability and indeed counters the factors which are external to learning but upon which learning and the ability to learn have been for too long so foolishly placed.

Whilst ‘dumbing-down’ or developing an educational standard based upon little more than ‘the lowest common denominator’ fills those who abhor anything even perceptively elitist in nature with complete joy, lowering academic standards for the more-academically-inclined simply reduces the numbers of those who would otherwise excel and therefore contribute differently and arguably more greatly to our society as a whole.

However, the real tragedy in all this is based upon all those who are not academically attuned at school age. Many who are unequipped to rise to such theoretical standard, perhaps because of nothing more than circumstances in their lives. Many, who just need their learning to be more practically and vocationally inclined – perhaps only at that time.

We all lose from the approach that has been adopted, as what is in effect manifest ignorance of those whose ability lies not with their heads but with their hands, is or has created a lost generation which unwittingly and in most cases unwillingly lend themselves to many of the welfare, benefits and crime statistics that so many of us know to be so wrong, but have to accept as being just the way that it is.

The lack of foresight and basic understanding of our fellow man that has led these socialist agendas which have pursued this ideology of everyone being the same, are not only destroying the lives and future chances of individuals who could make a considerable contribution to our society – were they given the fullest opportunity to do so; they are contributing to the creation an entire sub-culture of socially disadvantaged, socially inept and socially immobile people who are blighted by the media propagated caricatures that have been landed upon them by the same libertarian and quixotic idealists who inadvertently put those same people there.

Glorification of celebrity, fame, sensationalism and money have led many of us to forget that the very basic forms of all occupations are about us; about life; about putting food on the table; about being healthy; about being happy; about getting us where we need to go. Our values have somehow gone wrong and we have forgotten that every job or occupation is important and that we should all value them as such for the contribution that they make in our lives and the value that they bring to our society.

The ironies of this saga do not stop there. If we continue to flat-line the contribution that we make to the opportunities we give to the up-and-coming generations in the form of free education, the best opportunities really will be left as the preserve of the financially rich who can arguably afford a tailored level of education for their children which simply becomes unavailable anywhere else. If you are of those who think that Politics is skewed in favour of a privately educated elite right now, look what could soon begin to follow in the not too distant future.

Both socialism and liberalism as they exist are flawed. They are little more than idealistic philosophies that make no allowance for the realities of cause and effect, and if we don’t address this failure to address the need for balance in every aspect of life and policy that Government touches soon, the results simply do not bear thinking about.

The role that education plays in all our lives and how it reaches and extends into all parts of our culture, make it probably the very best place to start in addressing what could easily be called the regressive steps that the drive for ill-considered forms of equality have so far engineered.

Every part of the education system needs reform, which will only be controversial for those who continue to put their own ideas first, above the needs and requirements of others. Perhaps we could:

Reintroduce Grammar Schools in every District: The pathway of education for children to which so many parents aspire, Grammar Schools offer a benchmark in education and discipline that it has become unfashionable to appreciate vocally. This social anathema should be dispelled for the foolishness that it is and the opportunity should exist for all academically able children to gain a place at a Grammar School if they can attain the examination standards required and do not have alternative means to access a like-for-like education.

Reintroduce the 11+: With Numeracy and Literacy Skills at a low point, we simply must return to an acceptable level of basic education at this key age so that children are equipped to engage fully during adolescence in our increasingly information-based age, and employers can be sure that young people can not only understand, but also be understood. (Please follow this link for an insight on the 11+.)

Reintroduce real and vocationally based Apprenticeships at 14: Probably the most vital step that needs to be taken is to recognise that not all children are academically inclined and that the system today is failing too many young people because it has not nurtured them in a way which fits their learning processes. In simple terms, children are usually ‘head or hands’ and therefore more theoretically or practically able in their learning processes. In isolation, neither of these qualities is a sign of intelligence, yet children who simply aren’t academically able to make the best of the school environment are all too often considered disruptive and can of course be an unnecessary distraction for those who are suited to school learning. As we grow older, we can all appreciate how little we knew but how much we thought we knew when we were in our teens and providing a stewarded environment from 14 for young people who are better suited to life outside the academic environment would give them the opportunity to take guided steps into the adult world, whilst earning an appropriate level of pay and giving a staffing option to commerce and industry that could make a significant difference to business. Either subsidising roles or supporting complimentary training courses at Tertiary Colleges could still deliver a saving in real terms, whilst providing an investment in the individual, taking them off the streets, whilst supporting British industry with a potentially parallel vocational route to age 21 that would more than adequately make up in time-served experience and the hands-on accumulation of skills for life what academically biased young people gain via a complete route of full-time education.

Reintroduce National Service: With a break or shorter form of Apprenticeship, those young people taking the vocational route could perhaps choose to finish their training in the Armed Services from 18-21, with the option being there as a requirement to attend for all young people not being in education or Apprenticed vocational training between those ages. Those ‘finishing’ training could bring skills from industry that the armed services need at a time that a pool of such experience could be highly beneficial. Either way and however those young people came to join, there is no question that a military grounding would provide a sense of value and self-worth for people who might otherwise never receive it. Such a pathway could open the door either to an extended military career or to the motivation and direction to move forward and make the best of the other opportunities that are on offer to those who value themselves and what they will inevitably gain to do it.

Return to more challenging forms of Exams at 16 and 18: The earlier part of this Coalition Government saw a series of attempts by Education Secretary Michael Gove to reform exams and return to the former O’ Level and A ‘Level or Baccalaureate standards. It’s a desperate shame that he was prevented from doing so as the realities of the flaws in our Education system would quickly become evident and would perhaps highlight just how severely our children are being failed by a system which is currently geared to treating everyone as if they were exactly the same; a system that is benchmarked for its quality not by aspiration, but by the rule of the lowest common denominator. Life is by its very nature challenging and the exams that we take at 16 and 18 should genuinely represent the milestones that they are, rather than just being something that we do. If degrees are to again have the meaning to industry that they once had, it necessarily follows that these checkpoints of the educational pathway should be high on expectation too.

Restructure the way that Higher Education is funded: The Government cannot afford to fund the number of places within Higher Education that the drive to give everyone a degree has required. The fallout from this has of course been the creation of Tuition Fees which in themselves are creating lifetimes of debt for students who may have been a great deal happier taking other routes to learning. The fragility of funding streams has driven many Higher Education establishments to behave more and more like businesses as their focus moves from providing the best education for students to ensuring the survival of the organisations – and the jobs that they provide. This does not contribute to society on a wider level and the focus needs to return to providing the best Degrees possible and not necessarily the ones that generate the best fees from providing them. Bringing the return of value to pre-University level and parallel vocational forms of education would counter much of this, but as with areas such as the NHS and Local Government, there has to be a recognition of the need for overall change as part of a new bigger and reforming picture. This could realistically mean the loss of University Status or even closure for some institutions. But what was really wrong with polytechnics anyway.

Refocus on exam-based scholarship entry opportunities to all private schools for children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford them: Whilst some would happily see the demise of private schools in much the same way as Grammars have all but disappeared, Private Schools should always have their place, if nothing more than to allow those who can afford to pay the choice to do so. However, such institutions should also be available to children who would thrive with the support of such an environment and the schools themselves should be required to make a certain number of places available through exam-based scholarships each year for children who have the academic ability to meet the standards of each specific school, but would otherwise be held back by lack of financial resources.

Stop bringing the blame-claim-culture into schools and let teachers get on with educating: Parents do have a role to play too and I will not be alone in remembering the absolute horror which our parents would experience upon learning that we had been in trouble or had been reprimanded for being disruptive in school. The balance has changed and there is now an unwritten expectation that all children are perfect and that they can never be at fault. The complaints culture and accompanying insinuation that a complaint is just a step away from a claim is paralysing disciplinary standards with the creation of fear on the part of Teachers to act against unruly children who only 30 years ago would have had a string of detentions or worse from the school, along with a right good rollocking from their parents just as soon as they returned home.

Introduce standard educational apps on all electronic devices which will be used by children: Technology and the influence that it has upon us all is marching ahead at a hellish pace. Children are already using tablet computers before they can do many other things. We are currently missing the opportunity to work with manufacturers and potential sponsors to utilise these devices which immediately make fascinated children a captive audience.  The development of standard apps which can be used to develop reading, language and other skills for the benefit of children and that of the education system which will very soon follow could be immeasurable. There is no doubt that Government should be working closely with manufacturers and Companies such as Google, to develop acclimatised software which is included within the operating platform of the machines at the point of sale and makes the very best of the learning opportunity which is literally presented for them there at hand.

Education by its very nature is supposed to assist the evolution of people, rather than becoming a tool which does little more than help a society to regress. Great ideas will not help all people if they are not developed with the needs of every single person in mind and education is currently failing in the UK because the system we have in place today is based on the flawed idea that Equality is about sameness.

It’s time that we stopped trying to force people to change in ways that they simply cannot be changed; accept the good that exists in the real differences between us, and start giving each and every one of our children and young people their very best shot.

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Labour’s ‘jobs guarantee’ for the unemployed: Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Tackling unemployment should be an issue for any Government. But Labour’s attempt at generating meaningful headlines with meaningless content will do little to reassure either business or the unemployed about what the post 2015 future may hold. It will also do little to enhance Labour’s kudos on matters of care for the elderly if they are planning even more ‘Brownite’ onslaughts upon the pension funds of those who are already working.

Subsidising low-paid jobs does little to incentivise those who have not already taken them, but does a great deal for companies who need and profit from a low-skilled workforce; staff who require minimum induction or ongoing training alongside next-to-no supervision; all packaged neatly within a low-risk environment.

People should not be fooled either by the idea that cash-strapped charities would immediately benefit from having unskilled staff delivering services which may currently be undertaken by experienced volunteers, when such staff themselves would in all likelihood require supervision at much greater cost.

Perhaps I will not be alone in seeing the irony that the only businesses which can therefore profitably gain from the implementation of these ideas are primarily the big retailers, who are already targeting such groups for their shop-floor staff pools and don’t actually need Government money to help them do so.

The retail fat-cats must surely be laughing themselves all the way to the bank as they thank the gods of democracy in anticipation of the delivery of such idiocy made manifest in political form.

Getting people of all ages into work isn’t just about job creation. It is about empowering business, education and developing skills based upon the strengths of the individual, rather than devaluing the future of a whole generation on the basis of the weaknesses of groups.

If Westminster politicians were to adopt a more reasoned and practical approach, they might conclude that tackling employment issues tomorrow might be better served by tackling the causes of unemployment today. They might also conclude that the unemployed and disenfranchised young people of today, may well become the long-term unemployed and unemployable of tomorrow. Can it really be that difficult to see how many of these issues actually roll into one when you think ahead?

As Education Secretary, Michael Gove has impressed many with his fervour to return a world-class British system of education for school-age children. But will that really go far enough if it actually happens?

Children are always different and will always react differently to education. Some work best with their heads, whilst some will always work better practically and ‘with their hands’. Any system of schooling which therefore doesn’t recognise that difference and more importantly cater for it, is going to fail many of those who might otherwise go on to succeed – especially when that difference may just have been a simple issue of age and time at individual level.

Returning to a fully parallel and universal system of academic and vocational education from the age of 14 would be akin to pushing the first domino in a whole run of social issues concerning us now and for the future – however ‘un-PC’ they may be.

Removing red tape and legislation that currently prevent businesses of all sizes from employing teenagers at realistic wages during realistic hours and within the real-world employment environment, could give non-academically inclined children the real hope of attaining like-for-like qualifications through the timed-served, rather than the academic route.

Creation of the ‘apprenticeship-degree’ would bolster the competitiveness of British Industry and business of all sizes which themselves would then be able to draw upon an affordable pool of trainees, making investment in their future entirely more feasible; whilst taking Young People off the streets, giving them value in themselves, money in their pockets and taking them away from crime which the Country can already ill-afford to tackle.

Savings to Government from no longer filling what are arguably wasted places in schools could be significant, even if some funds were then redirected to tertiary and higher education colleges which support the vocational route for many of what would be the mile-stoned route to that real and vocationally-based degree. And let’s face it, degrees need to regain the value that the one-size-fits-all mentality of the last Government did much to destroy, whilst giving all those who actually want to work the opportunity to do so.

Getting the unemployed who want to work into work will always be a job done better by employers. Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

Businesses are not inherently academic, so why are degrees becoming the prerequisite skill?

Latest news suggests that without more degree level education based skills, the UK will experience an exodus of jobs overseas to emerging economies. But when we already have students doing degrees just for the sake of doing them and a basic education system which sees school-leavers failing to possess even basic literacy and numeracy skills, should we really be thinking about pushing more through a university education as the immediate priority?

Like it or not, many young people are neither cut out nor ready for an academic pathway from or even during secondary education. Simply creating more courses to include a wider selection of students is hardly the answer and is fast leading to the existence of meaningless degrees, which won’t help business, and don’t help the students themselves who these days will have had to sell their soul to get it.

One of the greater injustices of recent political times is the idea propagated by New Labour during the 1997-2010 period of Government that everyone could be the same and do the same things. Such socialist ideology permeates itself by changing – or rather levelling systems throughout society to treat everyone the same under the ideal that to do so is providing ‘equal opportunities’.  However, as we are all different – and often in ways that cannot be seen with the naked eye – this method is not only obtuse in the extreme, it has contributed to the creation of a society where younger generations are becoming lazy and without ambition. When you add to this the burden of taxation which is placed upon higher wage earners for daring to do well and the resentment they experience if they do so, neither do you leave in place any real motivation to be any different or encourage the social mobility that the same idealist meddlers suggest to be a milestone of progress.

The good behind many ideas, policies and concepts is often lost when change is enacted simply for the sake of change and this is no less so within education as elsewhere. Whilst the technology age has altered the requirements for skills throughout the industries, the historic format of leaving school at 14 and becoming ‘apprenticed’ was a much better way to foster learning in those who were more ‘hands than head’ at the time, and could as such provide lessons in forming the basis of a very radical and effective way to change the way that we develop our National skills base for business and industry.

Why not:

  • Remove the burdens of red tape which govern the working environment for younger people.
  • Develop an effective subsidy allocation and training scheme to assist participant businesses to replace unused school places, ‘young to work’ schemes and unemployment benefits.
  • Give business a cost-effective motivation to support vocational or ‘on-the-job’ training for 14-21 year olds who in that time, may well have attained the equivalent of academic training in parallel skills and real-world experience, which may in fact have far more use to companies than ‘green’ graduates who refuse to stuff envelopes because they have a degree.

Business can only get the best from employees if they have been nurtured within a system which allows and encourages them to be their best – in whatever way that may be. Even the suggestion that you must have a degree level education to make an effective contribution is not only short sighted; it fails to recognise that a true acceptance of diversity goes way beyond embracing race, impairment, sexuality, location or social group and that each pathway to learning can be highly beneficial to society with real opportunities put in place to appreciate it.

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