Experts split over education reforms

Mike Tomlinson’s report into the state of 14-19 education was published last week. Its main recommendation was replacing GCSE’s and A-levels with a four-stage diploma. The report also said there should be minimum standards of English, maths and computing abilities and better routes into vocational training.

But do Tomlinson’s recommendations pass the test as far as business is concerned?


– Simon Turl, chief executive of People 1st, the Sector Skills Council representing the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industries

“We welcome the focus on employability skills and Tomlinson’s effort to place all employers at the heart of education. Putting vocational learning on a par with academic tuition can only be a good thing.

“We are disappointed there is little mention of colleges or private training providers as engagement on the supply side is vital. There is a tendency in the report to assume that education for 14-19 year olds should only be provided in schools.”

– Victoria Gill, learning, training and development adviser at the CIPD

“The proposal to strengthen the vocational qualification system and include more ’employability’-related learning is an important step forward.

“Placing a greater focus on both basic skills and efforts to stretch more able students will be welcomed by our members, who report increasing skills shortages.

“The emphasis on the needs of the individual learner that lies at the heart of these proposed reforms is an extremely positive step. Only by allowing learning to continue, with progression available at different stages in an individual’s career and life development, will we be able to continue to close the skills gap.”

– Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary

“This is a milestone report and offers a real chance for us to bridge the gap between academic and vocational learning. The greater choice will engage more young people in learning and afford them the opportunity to unlock their full potential.”


– Carl Gilleard, chief executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters

“These reforms should help to ensure that students do not ‘switch off’ or close down options at too early a stage.

“Changing the qualifications that students study, however, will not in itself improve the quality of the educational experience.

“If we are to truly improve the levels of literacy and numeracy in the UK, then the quality of teaching needs to be tackled – and from an early age.”

– Richard Wilson, head of business policy, the Institute of Directors

“Forty-eight per cent of IoD members in a recent NOP survey said their organisation had encountered basic literacy and numeracy deficiencies in young employees.

“A revolution in the examination system will not deliver the improvements so desperately needed. The establishment of the diploma would be disruptive and costly. Finally, there is no guarantee that it would lead to higher standards or improvements in literacy and numeracy skills.

– John Cridland, deputy director general, CBI

“The CBI cannot give a green light to the proposals. Busi-ness must be convinced that more will be gained than lost by re-organising 14-to-19 education. The Tomlinson report is chiefly about qualification reform. Bus-iness is concerned with raising literacy and numeracy standards.”

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