Why we need work-related learning

Why we need work-related learning

Young Enterprise has published a response to the Department of Education's consultation paper on removing the statutory entitlement to work-related learning at Key Stage 4.

Richard Branson has previously spoken out on the benefits of teaching business skills in a practical way from a young age. Virgin Media Pioneers, the young entrepreneur community, has also campaigned for more work-related education. Read the views of Young Enterprise below...

Catherine Marchant, Young Enterprise Interim Chief Executive, writes:

Our distinguished Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is about to do something so apparently odd that it makes one gasp just to think of it.

Even though unemployment among young people has climbed above the sensitive threshold of one million in recent weeks, he is preparing to scrap work-related education for 14 to 16 year olds.

It means he is set to abolish a key legal right that young people currently have. This is for a few hours of the curriculum to be devoted to helping develop knowledge, skills and understanding that might be useful in work.

So what gives Mr Gove the confidence to do this? Why is he prepared to ignore the furious protests of the CBI, Institute of Directors, and 204 of Britains most significant employers including 02, Bosch, Tata Steel, Citi, QinetiQ and Sage who signed the Young Enterprise Charter to demand more, not less, work related learning?

The Cabinet Minister says he bases his view on the findings of a Review of Vocational Education by Professor Alison Wolf. Yet when experts have examined the judgements and evidence she produced they have been puzzled by several apparent confusions and contradictions that riddle the document.

Difficulties start when she declares that work experience had served its time because it was too expensive and fewer and fewer employers were willing to accommodate under-16s on potentially hazardous shop floors. That was, to say the least, arguable.

But her argument gets into real trouble when she asserts that work experience had officially become the same thing as work-related learning.

Er, no. It hasnt.

Parliamentary legislation makes it quite clear that the traditional work experience on company premises is completely different from work-related learning in schools under the guidance from a volunteer from business.

She was challenged about this seeming muddle at the Commons Education Committee on 27th April 2011. Nic Dakin MP said she appeared to have mangled together two entirely different things. Professor Wolf appeared to shift her ground, conceding they were indeed not the same thing.

Yet on this shaky basis she concludes in her report that running work related education on school premises was largely pointless.

She was also asked at the Select Committee where she got the evidence for her claim that young people uniformly did not find enterprise education useful. She replied she had not conducted systematic research but instead did a run-round of all my childrens friends.

Young Enterprise has responded officially to Wolfs findings. We argue that by removing the statutory entitlement to work-related learning at Key Stage 4 Mr Gove is in danger of swinging the school curriculum towards an alarmingly narrow emphasis on the acquisition of academic facts and exams.

This would deny a crucial group of young people the chance to learn vital employability skills, attitudes and behaviours employers tell us they look for when hiring new recruits. These include the ability to take responsibility, teamwork, reliability, thinking globally, integrity, and punctuality.

It would ignore evidence that the Young Enterprise philosophy of encouraging 'learning by doing' with help from business volunteers has an inspirational and empowering effect on the volunteers as much as the students.

In the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, young people need all the preparation for work they can get.

What are your views on work-related learning? What do you think the Department of Education's response should be?

Go to Young Enterprise to read the full response from Young Enterprise to the Department of Educations consultation paper.

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