According to the CBI, much of the 35 years of education reform has focused on measures of performance, such as exams and league tables, which has allowed too many young people to fall behind.
Despite spending more on education than many other countries, the UK has slipped down international league tables. In England alone, half of the poorest children fail to achieve the expected levels in reading, writing and maths at 11, and don’t catch up in secondary school.
First steps: a new approach for our schools outlines measures including: giving more freedom to teachers; moving the focus from league tables to delivering a more rounded education; a shift from GCSEs to make 18 the focus of secondary education; and introducing vocational A-levels with the same standing as traditional A-levels.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “Businesses have traditionally focused on education at 14 plus, but it’s clear we need to tackle problems earlier, instead of applying a sticking plaster later on.
“We have some great teachers and average grades are rising, but we’ve been kidding ourselves about overall standards. By teaching to the test, too many young people’s individual needs are not being met, and they are being failed by the system.
Between 2000 and 2009, the UK slipped from 4th to 16th in science, from 8th to 28th in maths and from 7th to 25th in reading in international league tables.
Raising educational attainment to the levels of the best in Europe could boost GDP by more than £8 trillion over the lifetime of a child born today, CBI said.