Thursday, June 05, 2014

School leavers 'better off training for a trade than going to university’

Future generations of school leavers should consider turning their backs on university because of a sharp rise in the projected number of medium and low-skilled jobs, according to research.

The majority of teenagers are likely to be better prepared for the workplace by shunning higher education in favour of practical, jobs-based training over the next 10 years, it was claimed.

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned that the number of university leavers has dramatically outstripped the supply of advanced jobs.

Figures show that one-in-five people currently employed in low-skilled occupations hold degree-level qualifications.

But the report warned that the proportion of the workforce deemed seen as “overqualified” will escalate in the future amid a “growing mismatch between skills supply and demand”.

The study estimated that two-thirds of jobs created by 2022 – more than nine million – will be in medium or low-skilled occupations that do not normally demand a degree as a requirement, it emerged.

Many will be linked to the retirement of the “baby-boomer” generation, researchers said, taking their positions in skilled trades such as bricklaying, plumbing, electrics and agriculture.

The most “in-demand” occupation of the future will be linked to health and social care as rising numbers of school leavers are needed to look after the aging population, it was claimed.

The conclusions will add to concerns that too many teenagers are being pushed into taking a degree without properly considering the alternatives.

Figures published last week showed that the number of people applying to university had hit its second highest number on record, with 634,600 people applying for degree courses by the end of May, an increase of four per cent in a year.

At its peak in 2011, figures showed some 49 per cent of school leavers had started – or planned to start – a degree.

But speaking last year, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, admitted that large numbers of students were being forced to gain university degrees even though they were “superfluous” to many careers such as nursing and accountancy.

Lord Baker, the former Conservative education secretary, also attacked Labour’s “totally unrealistic” target to get at least half of young people into higher education, saying the move had left Britain with a major “skills crisis”.

Today's IPPR's study warned that the “golden route” for school-leavers – A-levels followed by a degree – was no longer the only option.

“It is not sufficient for policymakers to rely on increasing the number of graduates in the workforce as a way of creating more skilled jobs and driving economic growth," said the report.

“It appears from the data presented in this paper that the number of high-skilled jobs has not kept pace with the rate at which workers are becoming more highly qualified. Businesses are still creating large numbers of low-skilled jobs.”

It added: “The emphasis on general university degrees may be producing more graduates than are required in some sectors of the labour market.

“A fifth of workers in low-skilled occupations hold a higher education qualification, prompting fears that their skills are not being properly used in the workplace.

“There is also a danger that this might be ‘bumping down’ other workers in the labour market. Policymakers therefore need to encourage firms to improve the quality of jobs on of fer, to ensure they can make use of graduate skills.”

The IPPR report, which was commissioned by the Edge Foundation, used data from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to analyse job growth between 2012 and 2022.

The study estimated that an additional 14.4 million jobs would be created across the UK over the next decade. Of those, 5m would be in high-skilled sectors, including corporate management, business, media, teaching, health professions and science.

But it insisted that almost two-thirds of newly-created jobs would be in medium and low-skilled industries.

Some 3.6m will be in med-level industries including skilled metal and electrical trades, construction and building, social care and agriculture. A further 5.7m jobs will be created in low-skilled areas, including 1.6m in care services, 1m in administrative roles, 516,000 in sales and 501,000 in transport.

Craig Thorley, IPPR researcher, called for more teenagers to move on to high-quality vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships , adding: “In their desire to ‘win the global race’, policymakers have focused on increasing the number of graduates in the economy.

“However, winning the race will require more than simply expanding general higher education.”

Jan Hodges, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, which campaigns to raise the status of technical education, added: “This research clearly demonstrates that we must continue to support high quality vocational education if we are to meet the needs of our future economy.”

A large-scale study published last week found that the overall proportion of English students claiming they get “good value for money” for a degree had dropped from 41 per cent before the introduction of £9,000 annual fees in 2012 to just 28 per cent this year.

The latest research, by the website, found that 28 per cent of former students admitted to experiencing “low-earner anxiety” – when the thought of being out-earned by their peers causes stress levels to rise. This compared with 16 per cent of non-graduates.

Almost four-in-10 former students – 39 per cent – also admitted they earned “less than they once expected they would”, compared with a third of non-graduates.

Ian Williams, a spokesman for the website, said: “It’s surprising how many of these graduates think they’re now earning less than they should after taking the popular route through higher education.

“However, it’s clear former students value their degree or other qualifications highly, whether or not their salary is what they hoped for.


Universal School Choice: A Reform for the 21st Century

In his seminal work, “Free to Choose,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman outlined his case for universal school choice, advocating for robust voucher systems for elementary and secondary education that “would give parents at all income levels freedom to choose the schools their children attend.” (emphasis added)

Friedman’s work laid the foundation for the broader school choice movement. He knew there would be opposition to his proposal departing from the one-size-fits-all status quo. But he also knew, as he wrote in Free to Choose, that school choice options such as vouchers would “keep emerging with more and more support.” He was right.

The school choice movement is proliferating like never before. States traditionally have worked to ensure children most at risk of being underserved by their neighborhood schools are prioritized in accessing school choice options – children from low-income families and children with special needs, for example. But today, states have the opportunity to think bigger about educational freedom—for all children, from all levels of income.

As of 2014, there are 40 private school choice programs in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In 2011, Arizona passed the nation’s first education savings account option, advancing the notion of “School Choice 2.0.”

ESAs allow parents to use a portion of the dollars that would have gone to their child in a public school toward fully customizing their child’s education by enabling them to purchase a variety of education-related services and products. It’s likely Friedman would have seen ESAs as a refinement of his original voucher idea.

ESAs—like most school choice measures—are currently reserved for low-income children and children with special needs. This is a good starting point, but it should not be the end goal. As school choice measures grow more innovative, they also should become more expansive.

Parents of all income levels should be free to choose the best educational option to meet their child’s individual needs.

School choice raises all boats, for all children. As University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene writes, “Suburbanites need education reform for the sake of their own children and not just for the poor kids in the big cities. If suburban elites commit to education reform for their own children, we may finally get improvement for low-income kids in the cities as well.” Broader educational opportunity creates competitive pressure on public schools, which in turn benefits children who choose to attend.

What’s more, suburban educational options are not as good as they often are thought to be. The National Assessment for Educational Progress’ latest “report card” shows that only 26 percent of 17-year-olds are proficient in math, and only 38 percent are proficient in reading.

Research from the George W. Bush Institute’s Global Report Card shows even affluent American suburban schools districts lag in educational achievement compared to 25 other developed countries.

Friedman’s vision for school choice was not confined to a particular demographic or geographic area. Rather, he knew expanding opportunity across income levels would help both the poor and the affluent alike by creating a healthy competitive pressure on public schools and by empowering the ones who know their children best—parents—to choose the best educational options for their children. Research shows parents are more satisfied with their child’s education when they have the power to choose.

School choice options should be designed to give every child an opportunity to receive the best education possible. That is a 21st century vision for education reform.


Damning reports will show state schools in Birmingham are imposing Islamic practices

Teachers are to be sent on training programmes to help them stop extremism entering the classroom, as damning reports show that some state schools have been imposing Islamic practices and attitudes.

The reports are due to be published by the education watchdog Ofsted next week, after inspectors carried out emergency checks in 21 schools in Birmingham following complaints of homophobia, the segregation of boys and girls in some lessons, refusal to teach sex education, bullying and invitations to extremists to speak at assemblies.

It is understood six schools, including Park View Academy, have been placed in special measures after inspectors found worrying evidence of religious interference in the classroom.

According to The Sunday Times, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, will claim next week that children in Birmingham are being denied a “rounded education” to prepare them for life as British citizens.

The Ofsted boss is expected to warn the education secretary Michael Gove that his inspectors have found evidence of some governing bodies being dominated by individuals intent on changing the character of schools.

At Park View Academy, inspectors are understood to have found evidence of segregation of pupils and the omission of parts of GCSE syllabuses that were considered "un-Islamic".

However, Tahir Alam, chairman of governors at Park View and a governor at several of the other schools under investigation, has described the inquiry as a "witch-hunt".

Only two of the 21 schools are thought to have been given positive feedback.

According to a source at the Department for Education, some of the schools will be asked to attend training programmes designed to combat the problems.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, criticised what he described as “a worrying pattern of religious interference by governors, attempted hijacking of appointments, syllabus restrictions and cultural conformity".


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