My message to the Education Secretary after the General Election: ‘Build on’ rather than ‘tear down’

My message to the Education Secretary after the General Election: ‘Build on’ rather than ‘tear down’

Whoever wins the General Election will have a huge inbox. There will be decisions to make on all manner of things including health, defence and the economy.

There is one thing, however, that they shouldn’t tinker with too much – at least in England. That is education.

Since the new national curriculum was introduced in 2014 England has been moving up the PISA rankings.

The Programme for International Student Assessment rankings is an ongoing study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It evaluates educational systems by measuring the performance of 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading.

The most recent figures, released in December, showed that England rose to 11th in maths, up from 29th in 2009.

And the country ranked 13th for reading and science – up from 25th and 16th in 2009.

This is due to a greater emphasis on traditional teaching methods and moving away from fashionable but ineffective progressive methods.

For comparison, look at Scotland and Wales. Both these systems went their own way and embraced progressive teaching. The OECD ranks them both below England.

Scotland’s decline is the most alarming because there was a time when its education system was lauded around the globe.

In the last PISA rankings, it was placed 25th in maths, 24th in science and well behind England in reading.

The message is clear. Any Education Secretary should continue on the present route, which works, and should not be swayed by fashionable techniques that do not.

Another thing that should remain is SATs for Year 6 pupils. The exam is a good measure of children’s performance at the end of primary school.

The grading could be improved, though, by implementing the system that was in effect before 2014.

Grading children simply as ‘working towards’, ‘working at’ and ‘working above’ National Standard is too loose a grading system.

Previously, there were 18 grading steps for English and 18 grading steps for maths.

It went from Level 1 to Level 6 and at each grading step there was also an a, b, and c category.

This grading system allowed the following to be ascertained:

  • Information to secondary schools about the children they are about to educate
  • Information to parents about how their child is performing
  • Information to the government about how children are performing across the nation and in different areas
  • Information to the primary schools about their performance
  • Information to the child about their individual performance

Another innovation that should be kept is ‘T’ Levels.

These are technical-based qualifications that employers and businesses helped develop and are two-year courses for 16-18-year-olds.

They are a good idea and should be developed. Too many young people are going to university.

Tony Blair’s ambition to send half of people to university has become a reality. But the outcomes have not been what was predicted.

Rather than all graduates receiving better careers and incomes, we have graduates working in jobs that simply don’t require a university education. And they are tens of thousands of pounds in debt.

We have graduates with ‘Micky Mouse’ degrees that don’t help the economy or the individual.

University should be an academic route that only serves around 25-30 per cent of young people well.

We need to develop technical and vocational training in education to a much higher level.

Germany has done this very successfully and only sends around 30 per cent of its young people to university. About 70 per cent are in vocational and technical training.

Lowering the number of people who go to university would create workers who could fill vacancies in the employment market, reducing the need for immigration.

In a nutshell, I would say to any incoming Education Secretary:

  • Continue with traditional teaching methods and ditch progressive ones.
  • Keep SATs for Year 6 pupils.
  • Turbo-boost T Levels and reduce by up to half the number of people going to university.