Demands for post-16 courses to reflect local skill gaps

Schools and colleges need to be able to design their own curriculum if they are to attract young people to stay in education after 16, says a report out today from the Institute for Public Policy Research.

It calls on the government to recognise that its policy of “top-down curriculum development” has failed to improve the number of young people staying on at school, particularly among those from more disadvantaged communities. It also claims that the specialised diploma proposals within the 14-19 white paper are unlikely to solve the problem.

Instead, it wants schools and colleges to devise their own courses to suit their local community and labour market. The IPPR argues that this would better link lower achievers to the skills needed by local employers, or give young people an alternative route to higher education.

Under its recommendations, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority would no longer be involved in developing new qualifications but would have a solely regulatory role.

Other proposals include extending free tuition up to the age of 21, rising to 25; creating grants for students from low income households up to the age of 25 by merging the Education Maintenance Allowance with the Adult Learning Grant; and closing the funding gap between schools and colleges in line with the Learning and Skills Development Agency guidelines.

Simone Delorenzi, IPPR research fellow and author of the report, said: “Those in the lower half of the attainment range, with modest or poor GSCE results at 16, do not value staying on because they do not see it as a route to better employment. Because they tend to come disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds, early leavers are a striking reminder of persistent inequalities in our education system.”

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