How to level up, build back better and re-set … in education

How to level up, build back better and re-set … in education

The pandemic and lockdowns have had a massive impact on children’s education – and continue to do so with many students having time away from classes.

For the most part schools have been back ‘properly’ this term and we can assess what needs to be done to help students catch up.

Firstly, there needs to be a large-scale investment in education to mitigate the damage that has occurred.

The problems all governments have is that they don’t see immediate results from the money they put in, but they need to act in an altruistic way.

Another government may reap the benefits of what is done now.

Saving money may be a short-term gain but the long-term effects of not providing the funding will be felt in our economic growth and the wealth creation of the UK in the future.

Secondly, the National Tuition Programme should be expanded to help as many children as possible.

We must support those who have been significantly affected and disadvantaged by the Covid pandemic.

This requires even more investment at a national level, but it will help the Government realise its ambition of creating a dynamic economy.

Thirdly, it is an important time to consider the overall future of education in the UK.

Now is the perfect moment to reset our system because we have such a candidate shortage in the jobs market.

With more than half our youngsters going to university for three or four years, it takes them out of the jobs market when the market most needs them.

As I have said many times before the academic bell curve (although not perfect) does indicate that around 25-30% of children are academically gifted.

Around 70-75% have other skill sets that need to be developed in various ways. We must skill our society and not just educate them academically.

It is important for all children to have a good grasp of literacy and numeracy but for many a vocational and more practical route is more suitable. 

This could include apprenticeships and joining the Government’s Kick Start scheme.

With wages rising in many sectors there is an opportunity for youngsters to go into driving careers manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships, for example, and to start earning right away.

This will help solve our candidate shortage and will force universities to target their resources towards the genuinely academically gifted.

Fourthly, I do think a longer school day could help, but what is done with the extra time must be carefully planned.

Focusing on literacy and numeracy should be the chief aim.

It might be tempting to fill up the time with social and fun activities but that would be a mistake.

If literacy is poor no subjects on the curriculum can be accessed properly.

If numeracy is lacking, then the sciences, maths and any technical subjects cannot be accessed either.

If a child is weak in literacy and numeracy, they will struggle in the secondary school environment because children move from classroom to classroom, and it is much harder to organise significant interventions to support them.

Pulling a child out of a classroom for support work often just leaves them further behind.

Catching up from Covid presents enormous opportunities if the government were to only see it.

Ensuring literacy and numeracy is the most important thing for youngsters to master is the most pressing, particularly the young.

It is also an opportunity to encourage those leaving school to enter the jobs market rather than head for university.

By the time their peers graduate these workers will have had three or four years’ earning under their belt, won’t be in debt and will have acquired practical skills that the economy desperately needs.

If fewer school leavers go to university, there will be vacant halls of residence that could help solve the housing shortage.

Those who choose the route straight into work can always attend university later in life when they might get more from it.

But if the government were to do one thing – it should be to ensure our youngsters are numerate and literate.