How the government can ensure its Queen’s Speech policies are achieved

How the government can ensure its Queen’s Speech policies are achieved

There was a telling announcement in the Queen’s Speech that revealed the disastrous policy of Tony Blair’s in wanting half of the youngsters to go to university.

The Queen read out the government’s policy platform that included ‘turbo-charging the economic recovery by seizing the opportunities of Brexit, investing in infrastructure and delivering a lifetime skills guarantee.’

Turbo-charging the economy is best done by abandoning the desire to send half of all youngsters to university and getting more of them into vocational and technical training.

Did Tony Blair actually have the best interests of school leavers in mind when he made his pledge, or did he see the increasingly left-wing universities as a great way of turning out Labour voters?

Only around a quarter of students are really suited to university – yet double that number are still encouraged to head for the dreaming spires of these institutions, some of which are now actively restricting academic freedoms and enforcing conformity to a certain political viewpoint.

Making those wanting to enter nursing and policing spend years in a university has not helped.

Tony Blair’s mantra of ‘education, education, education’ should now be replaced with ‘education, vocation, vocation’.

One problem is that those in power – who have almost always graduated from universities – have looked down their noses at those who have gone through alternative routes after school.

Yet these are the routes that best suit 75 per cent of our young people.

And were we as a country as keen to celebrate youngsters in vocational training and apprenticeships as we are with those who have a degree and a mortarboard then turbo-charging the economy would be easier.

For it is those with practical skills who will drive an increase in manufacturing, building and engineering, and that will boost the power of the country’s economic engine.

In Germany, around 30 per cent of people go to university, and even then much of the research work is done in independent institutes.

Their manufacturing industry manages to compete with China and other countries with cheaper workforces because it has developed arguably the most skill-intensive labour force in the world. And it is respected and admired across the country.

Our government is introducing T Levels which may go some way to help but the whole system needs to be rebalanced.

University degrees should be academically more rigorous and technical, vocational and practical training more available, and more celebrated.

Vocational training should not be seen as a second-rate option. People have different types of intelligence – academic intelligence is not the only intelligence.

Even if a professor has two dozen letters after his name he still has to call a plumber when his toilet gets blocked.

In the Queen’s Speech the government also said, ‘we will build back fairer by increasing opportunity for all and ensuring no child’s education is left behind by the pandemic.’

The most likely casualties from the pandemic will be those moving up to secondary school.

It is crucial that children are equipped with the basics.

All children have to be numerate and literate by the time they attend secondary education.

It is very difficult to correct this once a child is studying 12 or so subjects per week and is shuttling from classroom to classroom.

Poor numeracy will mean failure in maths, physics, chemistry and all technical subjects.

Inadequate literacy will stunt progress in English and all the humanities and will also impede progress in subjects that require numeracy because language skills are required across the curriculum.

To ensure that standards are maintained it is important to reinstate SATs tests next year.

I would also encourage the government to return to the previous grading system rather than the one that now operates.

Previously, in the two core subjects of English and Maths, grades usually ranged between Level 3 and Level 6. And these were further broken down into A, B and C grades within each Level.

It meant there were 12 possible grades a child could achieve – a detailed assessment that gave schools and parents important knowledge about numeracy and literacy levels.

This was a far better system than the one that replaced it three or so years ago.

This system only grades children as ‘working towards’, ‘working at’ and ‘working beyond’ national standard.

This is woefully inadequate and gives virtually no accurate information on a child’s actual performance.

My plan therefore to see a continued improvement in the educational offering our schools provide and to speed up the economic recovery is twofold.

Ensure all primary school-aged children are numerate and literate.

Ensure 75 per cent of school leavers go into vocational or practical training, with just the 25 per cent most academically gifted going to university.