Education, economy and society (blog comment from

February 27, 2015

Still nearly 1 million NEETS

Filed under: Lost Generation?, YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT — sitemananger @ 10:48 am

While unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds has fallen (down nearly 200 000 compared with a year ago), it still remains much higher than that for the population as a whole. What’s more the figures for the last quarter of 2014 show a small increase.

Latest ONS figures for NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) show a much lower annual decline as well as an increase on the last quarter.  At 963 000, over 13% (almost 1 in 7) of all  18-24 year olds still classified as  NEET, while  over 15% of those 18-24 are in this category.  The discrepancy between the number of NEETs and those ‘unemployed’ is the result of the relatively large number  who are ‘economically inactive’ – over half a million.   Obviously a number of these will have long term illnesses or disabilities, caring or parenting responsibilities and will not be able to work; but many will also have given up looking. The ONS statistics do not include further data on these categories.

However, the figures do show that 60 000 16/17 year olds remain in the NEET category, 4% of this age group and that this has barely changed since the increase in the educational and training participation rate to 17. This may indicate the difficulties in implementing this policy or in cajoling young people into education, if they don’t want to be there.

February 22, 2015

Are apprenticeships a real alternative to university?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sitemananger @ 6:27 pm

Post for  Reclaiming Schools

Schools have been criticised by government ministers and Ofsted for not doing enough to promote apprenticeships, but do they serve as a real alternative to university? Our research shows that most apprenticeships are low-skilled and ‘dead-end’ and don’t guarantee employment after completion.

There are of course some very good schemes that lead to well-paid skilled jobs, but these are massively over-subscribed, with BT and Rolls Royce apprenticeships attracting more applicants per place than Oxford engineering degrees. The employment areas where apprenticeships are more likely to be available are in routine office work, health and social care, or retail. Engineering apprenticeships are still in short-supply and in 2013/14 there were under 15 000 starts in the construction industry. As a result, overall apprenticeship vacancies are still well short of the number of applicants……..

 Read on:

Martin Allen  and  Patrick Ainley have also contributed to the  new issue of Forum  


February 13, 2015

Ed Miliband’s Haverstock speech: Neo-liberal schooling goes rolling on?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sitemananger @ 12:04 am


It’s Ed Miliband’s commitment to limiting primary school class sizes that’s received most attention, alongside his pledge to protect the education budget

Yet in his speech, delivered at his old school, Haverstock in Camden, Miliband also backed more personal, social and  citizenship education, arguing that school should be more than just about passing exams. In doing so he also hinted that Labour would give 16 year olds the vote –an initiative which would surely lead to pressure for greater democracy and more say for young people, over the way schools are run.

But in attacking Michael Gove’s reforms as ‘narrow and backwards looking’, Miliband simply ground-out Neo-liberal Blairite rhetoric about the role of education (the ‘passport to success’) in providing the skills to enable young people to compete in the global market place and reiterated the now redundant post-war social democratic ideals about education’s role in challenging social inequalities and promoting more social mobility.

 Ignoring the realities and implications of economic decline, downwards social mobility, increased poverty and labour market stagnation, this means that schools will  continue to be pushed to ‘improve’ using data-driven targets, reinforced by Ofsted inspections, league tables and with teachers pay being tied to pupil performance.  In rejecting  ‘sausage machine’ schooling, whatever Tristram Hunt may think, Natalie Bennett and the Greens are far in advance of Labour.

February 2, 2015

New league tables bed down Gove’s curriculum

Filed under: 14-19 — sitemananger @ 7:31 am
still running the show?
Still running the show?

Last week’s secondary school league tables began to bed down the first of Michael Gove’s examination changes for 14-19. The 2014 tables excluded performances in resits or in BTEC style vocational qualifications –and gave further prominence to  English Baccalaureate subjects.   As a result many schools found that though their overall performance in exams had improved, they’d slid down the league  and  more are  ‘failing’. By 2016 the tables will be rank schools according to the ‘eight’. This will be performance in the EB plus three other subjects deemed sufficiently ‘rigorous’ (read ‘academic’ with end of course written examinations).

Much of the media attention given to this year’s tables however has been hogged by the top private schools –largely  because they’ve continued to do the old ‘unregulated’ syllabuses for International GCSEs (IGCSE). No longer allowed in tables,  many privates are  now also  failing

The tables have not been designed to regulate these schools however, but to impose a ‘grammar school’ curriculum across the state sector and  more importantly to create new categories of failure and of course,  the option of imposing further sanctions on those that don’t make the grade. 

With the current Secretary of State Nicky Morgan now promising new ‘11 plus’ requirements if the Tories are re-elected,  we’re moving even further to an education system based on regimentation and social control rather than encouraging innovation and social aspiration. This is appropriate for a society where social mobility has gone in to reverse and high rates of youth unemployment have become the norm.

January 28, 2015

Desperate Dave and the three million apprentices

Filed under: apprenticeships — sitemananger @ 11:09 pm


imagesUGQXR678Desperate to have something new to offer, David Cameron now promises 3 million more apprenticeships during the next Parliament. Estimated at £300 million per annum, these would come at the expense of further benefit cuts for families and unemployed young people. According to the Tories, reducing total benefit eligibility ‘within the first few days’ of a new government  would save £135 million while  another £120 million would be clawed back by  withdrawing  housing benefit for young people on Job Seekers Allowance.  It goes without saying the cuts would worsen poverty levels and homelessness, but it’s unlikely that anywhere near this number of new apprenticeships would ever be created.

It’s true that approaching 2 million apprenticeships have been established in the current Parliament, but, particularly during the early years, the majority have been for adults, often existing employees who had been reclassified as apprentices in order to be eligible for government funds.  In recent months, because of growing criticism, recruitment patterns have changed and for the first time young people now make up the majority of starts, but numbers have plummeted. In 2013-2014, there were less than 450 000 starts, 10% down on the previous year. Also, two-thirds continue to be at Intermediate/GCSE level, lasting a year, sometimes shorter – these  won’t lead to the ‘well-paid jobs’ Cameron talks about.

Ironically a major drag on increasing apprenticeship numbers may come from the new methods of funding now being piloted by the Coalition. If implemented, the changes make employers directly responsible for apprenticeships, whereas in the current system private training agencies do much of the recruitment and then receive government funding for providing training and accreditation.   While it is true that some apprenticeships have provided real opportunities, many have   represented a Great Training Robbery allowing government agencies to meet targets and training companies to line their pockets.  Placements have invariably been dead-end and youngsters ‘parked’ with employers on low wages; rather than making the transition to any proper employment.

 Many smaller businesses will be reluctant to take on the increased burden of being directly responsible, yet the main issue  continues to be whether employers really want apprentices at all; at least in the numbers that Cameron promises.  With many skilled and ‘middling’ occupations disappearing, the majority of jobs created since the downturn have been either unskilled work at the lower end of the service sector, or enforced ‘self-employment’. Creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 would depend on the transformation of the UK’s  low-skilled, casino driven economy. At the very least this would require a proper industrial strategy and huge levels of public investment. This is not what the two main parties in the general election are offering.

Download  Another Great Training Robbery

January 22, 2015

Youth unemployment on the rise again?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sitemananger @ 8:51 pm

untitledThe monthly ONS statistics on the labour market show that unemployment as a whole continues to fall –now down to 1.9 million (5.8% of the ‘economically active population’). Data for the youth labour market points the other way however.  The December figures indicated that the fall in youth unemployment during recent months, is now bottoming out, but January figures published this week show that youth joblessness is starting to increase once again.

For 16-24 year olds, unemployment has risen by 30 000, from a smaller cohort –in percentage terms it’s up to 16.8%   compared with 16% in the last quarter.  Even if full-time students looking for work are excluded, for 18-24 year olds, unemployment now stands at 16.9%. There’s also been a 50 000   rise in those classified as ‘economically inactive’.  Though not all of these would be available to work.

The contrasting fortunes of young people continues to illustrate the difficulties they have in entering the labour market –youth unemployment is three times the full adult rate –yet with young workers invariably the last to get jobs and the first to lose them, does it also point to a possible reversal of the recent trend of falling unemployment in the near future?

January 11, 2015

‘All in it together’

Filed under: 14-19 — sitemananger @ 12:56 pm

4334d8be-5dc1-47d3-bf8c-f5d6d1a30913Radicaled has posted critiques of Labour’s  polices for 14-19 year olds  to emphasise the continuity  with those of  Lord (Kenneth) Baker, whose support for a strong academic –vocational separation and in particular, for University Technology Colleges (UTCs) offering employment specialisms,  led to Tory tensions with Gove’s ‘grammar school education for all’ approach.

As has been argued, this does not make Baker’s programme any more progressive. Far from it.

In this recent picture from   Baker’s UTC newsletter, you’ll  see Tristram Hunt and Lord Adonis accompanying him at a recent UTC  event. A  sign of things to come?

January 4, 2015

GCSEs, Margaret Thatcher and Michael Gove

Filed under: 14-19 — sitemananger @ 8:59 pm

Margaret_Thatcher_1981The recent publication of official papers from the 1980s provides further context to the introduction of GCSEs.

The new common exam, reflected the growth of comprehensive schools, many being given the go ahead by Thatcher herself,  while  a dual system of CSE and GCE O-level examinations, the former  still acting primarily as a ‘leaving’ certificate for ‘non-academic’ young people was also becoming increasingly inappropriate, as staying on rates continued to  increase. In addition many schools were able to ensure that their students were being awarded CSE grade 1 (O-level equivalent).  Despite this however, the papers report Prime Minister Thatcher’s concern that GCSE would result in too high levels of exam success, reflecting  the extent to which  New Right thinking  was already starting to sweep   through the education  system.

GCSE, possibly because it was so new, was able to survive the Education Reform Act, although tiering was quickly introduced.  It wasn’t until over 25 years later that Michael Gove launched a full-frontal attack on the qualification, unsuccessfully seeking to replace it with new E-bacc certificates, but then abolishing most of its progressive features and in so doing so, making it look more like the old O-level, as well as being  harder to pass.

Meanwhile   last week,  CBI  director general  John Cridland called for peak level assessment to be delayed till 18 and rather than GCSE, for more individually tailored learning from  14 and for young people to mix and match academic and vocational learning  ‘depending on what’s right for them’

It does seem ridiculous that with the raising of the participation age to 18,  GCSE continues to dominate the secondary curriculum. Practitioners and teacher unions must not let organisations like the CBI set the tone of this debate however

December 29, 2014

Organising Ideas -new website to support the NUT’s Manifesto for Education

Filed under: Uncategorized — sitemananger @ 7:58 pm




We are an informal group of academics and educational researchers who support the broad policy agenda presented in the NUT‘s Stand Up for Education campaign.  The Stand Up for Education manifesto can be downloaded here. We see the Stand up for Education initiative as a welcome attempt to present a much more positive and optimistic vision of education than that currently on offer

We seek to support this initiative by linking the key themes in the Stand Up for Education campaign to wider educational research. We hope that this will help everyone interested in promoting the positive agenda in the ‘Stand Up‘ campaign by linking to the research and evidence that supports these policies.

December 24, 2014

Patrick Ainley, Philosophy of Education Seminar, 10/12/14

Filed under: Uncategorized — sitemananger @ 9:12 am


 Philosophy of Education Seminar, Institute of Education 10/12/14

 Patrick Ainley, Professor of Training and Education at the University of Greenwich School of Education and Training

 Whereas Michael Gove’s delusion that ‘a grammar school education for all’ would restart the limited upward social mobility that existed after the war (while Harold Wilson was merely being devious in suggesting that comprehensive schools would sustain it), the new policy and professional consensus that has succeeded it is equally delusional in seeing apprenticeships creating a productive Germanised economy. So-called ‘apprenticeships’ are accompanied by expansion of University Technical Colleges and technical diplomas from 14+ leading to Foundation-style degrees in rebranded FE colleges under One Nation Labour’s two nation education and training proposals. These attempt once again to ‘rebuild the vocational route’ in a Second Machine Age of increasingly fungible labour and mass downward social mobility. Instead, a general education in schools is proposed, while in ‘thick HE’ (Silver 2004), paradoxically, the vocational nature of training in the most prestigious subjects at the most elite institutions needs to be refound, especially by an academic vocation dedicated to research and scholarship. Undergraduates can then contribute to that continuing cultural conversation, giving them a sense that many have lost of what higher education is supposed to be about. This might indeed Reboot Robbins………

                                                             Continue reading Here

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