Thursday, January 19, 2012

School leavers better workers than graduates as universities fail to equip people for work, say British employers

One in five employers believe school leavers make better workers than university graduates, according to research published today. Over half of companies said that university graduates had unrealistic expectations of working life.

A further one in three believed that the education system was failing to equip young people with the skills required by British businesses, the survey by recruitment giants Adecco found.

Newcomers to the world of work were found to be most lacking in interpersonal and computer skills, while one in four employers reported a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills among graduate recruits.

Adecco called on the education system, employers and the Government to tackle 'substantial shortcomings' in workplace skills.

Chris Moore, from Adecco Group, who surveyed 1,000 firms in the study, said: 'Undeniably, Britain has one of the best and most advanced education systems in the world but it must deliver a talented, reliable graduate workforce that brings demonstrable value to UK plc.

'On a significant scale, employers believe it is failing to do that. 'Although extremely valuable, a strong academic record is no longer a sufficient prerequisite for entry into today's working environment. 'Employers now hold attitude and personality in greater esteem than academic or even vocational qualifications when assessing new recruits.

'Collectively, we - the Government, businesses and educators - must work together and take full responsibility for developing skills in line with commercial needs.

'Financial acumen, communications techniques and a full appreciation of the attitude required to excel in the commercial world must now form a core part of curricula.

'We have to listen to employers who are telling us that our education system has to ensure soft skills are valued alongside an emphasis on academic excellence.'


Asthmatic children's lives put at risk by 'red tape' as British schools banned from keeping spare inhaler

But the bureaucracy is adamant

Children with asthma are being prevented from getting access to inhalers in schools due to 'needless red tape', a leading charity has warned. Asthma UK said schools are prevented from keeping a spare blue reliever inhaler on their premises because they are prescription-only medicines. But this puts children's lives at risk when they have forgotten to bring their own inhaler to school or have run out, it said.

The charity is calling for a change in the rules to allow schools to keep inhalers in their first aid kits.

Some 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma and just over 30,000 are admitted to hospital with the condition every year. There are around 1,100 asthma deaths every year among both adults and children.

A small survey of more than 200 youngsters for Asthma UK found almost two-thirds have had an asthma attack at school. One in five children said they find it 'quite difficult' or 'very difficult' to access their inhaler at school and 55% do not always know where it is or how to get it.

Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK, said: 'These medicines are very safe but going without them can be very dangerous, so it is crucial that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) changes the rules and allows schools to keep a spare inhaler as a last resort.

'The majority of children know to find a teacher if they don't have their own inhaler when having an asthma attack at school but the reality is that there is very little that staff can legally do to help in this situation. The charity says the MHRA could provide an exemption to the regulations to allow schools across the UK to supply the inhalers.

Similar exemptions already exist for organisations such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the armed forces.

Stephen McPartland, Conservative MP for Stevenage, said: 'The tragic case of Stockport schoolboy Samuel Linton, who died in 2007 following an asthma attack at school, shows that there is a real lack of understanding and awareness as to what to do if a child has an asthma attack whilst they are at school.

'This is why this campaign is so crucial, not only in terms of giving teachers access to an emergency inhaler but also empowering them with understanding, awareness and support in how to deal with asthma at school.'

Dr Kevin Gruffydd Jones, from the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS-UK), said: 'Asthma attacks are serious and children need access to inhalers as soon as possible. 'Introducing a spare inhaler for emergencies could prevent a serious asthma attack by getting prompt help for a child when it's needed.'

A spokesman for the MHRA said: 'In the interests of patient safety, asthma inhalers should only be supplied on prescription to the individual named, for his or her own use. 'The MHRA has no plans to change the current legal position.

'Exemptions exist because of the nature of the conditions in which these organisations operate. For example, the conditions in which military operations are undertaken will tend to mean that access to medical care or advice may not be readily available.'

Sam Linton's parents, Paul and Karen Linton, said: 'Sam was a wonderful son and his loss has been devastating. The past few years have been horrendous, especially in the knowledge that things could, and should, have been different. 'The thought that his death may have been prevented with better training and clearer policies is too much to bear. 'Our family has suffered enormously since Sam's death and we know our lives will never be the same again.

'We only hope that serious lessons have been learned by all schools so that no one else has to suffer what we have been through so that our son's death is not in vain.'

Jonathan Betts, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents the Linton family, said: 'If left untreated, asthma attacks can have devastating consequences. 'A simple national policy would help, which instructs teachers to call an ambulance if a child suffers an asthma attack and is not showing signs of improvement within five to 10 minutes.

'If easing the restrictions on schools stocking spare inhalers helps prevent further tragedy in future then we wholeheartedly support it.'


Australia: Moving final year primary schools into High School a waste: Dubious advantages and big costs

Katter's Australian Party has demanded the axing of plans to move year 7 into the high school system, saying Queensland should be “proud to do things differently” from other states.

This morning, party federal leader Bob Katter and state leader Aidan McLindon held a media conference at Beenleigh State School, where they attacked the state government's plan to bring Queensland into line with other states by moving year 7 out of the primary school system from 2015.

But Mr McLindon, the former Liberal National Party member who is fighting to hold onto his seat of Beaudesert at the coming state election, said the scrapping of the plans would save $620 million over four years.

He said he was concerned about the impact of the changes on rural and regional schools, along with the costs of building extra classrooms at numerous at-capacity high schools. “At this time right now it's a complete and utter waste of time,” he said.

Mr McLindon dismissed the government's argument that the change would bring Queensland into line with other states and ensure local students were not disadvantaged when the national curriculum was rolled out. “If people want to send their kids to a school in New South Wales, then they can, but the reality is it does not improve their education,” he said.

“We used to be a proud state to do things differently in Queensland. “It [moving year 7 into high school] forces the kids to grow up sooner. Let kids be kids.”

Premier Anna Bligh has previously said the year 7 class of 2015 would be the first full year to have attended the prep prior to year 1, and students would be ready and old enough for the change.

The move will be piloted in 20 schools from next year ahead of the 2015 state-wide rollout.

The government has budgeted $328.2 million towards work including construction of about 550 new classrooms and the refurbishment of 880, while $293.8 million will be spent over five years on teacher training and other measures to enable the move.

Mr McLindon said the money saved by scrapping the transition of year 7 into high school would fund Katter's Australian Party promises, including those yet to be made during the election campaign. He said the party was costing its promises “to the best of our ability”.

Mr McLindon was unsure of the cost of Mr Katter's idea, announced yesterday, to carve a canal through inland Queensland so mines could export iron ore through the Gulf of Carpentaria. “We've got to do the costings on that, but that's going to take a lot of federal funds as well,” he said.

Announcing the year 7 transition timeframe in June last year, Ms Bligh said the national curriculum would start with in the areas of maths, science and English.

“And what the curriculum generally will require is letting year 7 children have an opportunity to benefit from specialist teachers and from specialist learning facilities,” she said.

“So the science curriculum for year 7 children will be based on the assumption that these children have access to the sorts of facilities and teaching capacity that you find in dedicated science laboratories of Queensland high schools.”

The Liberal National Party has previously offered in-principle support for the change, but expressed concern over how it would be implemented and whether the costs had been underestimated.


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