Employers give mixed reaction to education white paper

Employers have given a mixed reaction to the government’s education white paper, published today.

The government rejected the recommendations of the Tomlinson report to replace existing qualifications such as GCSEs and A-Levels with a 14-19 diploma. However, it has introduced work-based diplomas – covering subjects such as engineering and health and social care.

In addition, the government said there should be “functional” assessments of literacy and numeracy for all students.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said the government was right to reject the Tomlinson proposals for a diploma.

IoD director general, Miles Templeton, said: “Rather than initiating an upheaval in the qualification system we need better standards and results in schools. In particular, businesses expect pupils leaving school to be literate and numerate.”

The Chartered of Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said employers would welcome functional assessments of literacy and numeracy for all students.

But the manufacturers’ organisation EEF said the government had missed the opportunity to engage in genuine reform of the 14-19 curriculum and give real value to vocational education.

EEF director general, Martin Temple, said: “The government has failed to make the grade with today’s announcement as far as manufacturers are concerned. Despite the laudible aims, it has missed the chance for genuine reform and to introduce an integrated approach to academic and vocational education.”

Announcing the white paper in the Commons, education secretary Ruth Kelly said she wanted a “relentless focus on the basics” so all young people left school “competent in the three Rs”. Kelly said too many young people were “deficient” in this regard and “unattractive” to employers.

The work-based diplomas will be set at three levels and cover 14 different areas of study, Kelly said. A separate diploma will recognise those who get the equivalent of five good GCSEs – provided they all pass new tests in basic maths and English. GCSEs and A-Levels will stay.

The new “specialised diplomas” will require specialised content relevant to the diploma subject area, relevant GCSEs and A-Levels, and work experience, the white paper said.

Kelly said the first four – in information and communication technology, engineering, health and social care and creative and media studies -would be available in every area by 2008.

The IoD said the government needed to ensure that the new vocational specialist diplomas really reflect the needs of businesses. The CIPD agreed that employers will want to be extensively involved in the development of work-based studies for 14- to 19-year olds.

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