Friday, January 12, 2007


Key Problem of Raising the School Leaving Age to 18

My picture of blank faced children in St Agnes's school, Longsight Manchester, from 1915 accompanies my thoughts on Alan Johnson's proposal to raise the school leaving age to 18. The World at One ran an item on it today in which it was reported that in the sixties there were 8 million jobs for the unskilled; now there are only 3.5 million and by 2020 there will be only 600,000. It is clearly crucial for young people to acquire some of the skills required to make a contribution, not to mention a living, in our modern economy.

Back in 1915 the majority of jobs were available to the unskilled working classes. Clearly the world of work has been transformed; my question and worry is: have the attitudes to training and education changed accordingly amongst the groups who most need it? Back on February 3rd 2006 I reported on some teaching I had done involving GCSE candidates. My experience was mixed; some groups were attentive and motivated and I think/hope benefited. Others were completely alienated from the introduction I was offering to help equip them the better for the adult world they were soon to join.

No matter how much I persuaded, wheedled, exhorted or finally, begged, they were wholly uninterested and wanted only to subvert my teaching and mess about. Very depressing it was too. Yet these same young subversives had stated they wanted to become civil engineers, barristers, doctors. It used to be said that working class kids lacked ambition but here the mismatch was between their aspirations and attitudes to the means whereby such goals could be achieved. Our relatively low school staying on rate helps explain why our skill levels are low enough to threaten seriously our international competitiveness.

We seem to have produced a large group of people who bring up their children to share the aspiration to achieve the end products of higher education(good) without accepting any of the rigours required for the necessary route to such objectives(disastrous). We learn that Alan Johnson has recently been to Canada and been impressed by their wheeze of with-holding driving licences from young people who refuse to stay on at school; apparently this has drawn in loads of youngsters who would otherwise have drifted onto the labour market bereft of skills.

I wonder if that works though, because it seems to me that if youngsters do not want to stay on in the first place they would be unlikely to exert much effort to benefit from such opportunities even if they were bribed or bullied into doing so. How do we solve this vital preliminary requirement? Search me, but it might be an idea to recognise the problem in the first place.

I'm not usually a proponant of capital punishment but ...

Seriously it's a tough one but I think that we should have much stronger lifetime learning.
This seems to me to be less difficult than your blog has it Bill. The proposal is surely for school or college or work-based training or vocational or whatever you want. In Finland 98% study or train to 18 and 67% go onwards from there. About double our figures I suppose.

The main thing Alan Johnson's measure would do is roll back to the times of proper craft and industrial foundations from the slapdash Tory ways of getting away with things, which clearly have a health and safety aspect too.

Lifelong learning is perhaps going to lose out in the short term through re-jigged priorities but I suppose in the longer term NL would say (and OL might for once agree) that people will have got into the habit of learning and being more employable they will have the £2 an hour needed for LLL in less employability orientated areas.
I wouldn't want to have to teach seventeen and eighteen year olds who don't want to be there.
It would be interesting to see if the proposal of raising the school leaving age actually happened.
Where would the money come from to employ more lecturers and teachers?
Education is already under-funded with schools and colleges lacking in finances and staff.
I am a parent of a child with special needs and I have been told by my LEA that there is only a small pot of money and not enough to provide for all the needs of all the children.
Big ideas..........small purse.
This shouldn't happen. There is enough time and money being wasted on deadwood in schools, without keeping it there for two more years. I am sure the aim of universal education was never to educate children inspite of themselves. I think the move would need to be the other way. 14 seems like a good stage to start moving the human refuse out, and let the serious people get on with proper learning. The price of keeping the dossers in the classroom is dumbing it down with more rubbish like media studies and leisure and tourism.
Needless to say Michael, while I don't know what the answer to the problem is, I'm pretty sure you don't have it either. But it's really nice to hear from you again after such a long period of quiescence.
Had a longer Xmas holiday watching the unfolding disaster that is the England cricket team in Australia. Truly a problem I don't know the answer for.

The whole education thing. Simple. If a minority of young people are not motivated to gain the skills they need for employment, then let them be unemployed. Make being unemployed as unattractive as possible - don't pay them. Don't spend resources on them. They can starve for all I care. As well as natural justice, this would provide an incentive for the others to get their finger out. Either way, I fail to see why this is, in any way, my problem.
What about the legal ramifications? Britons are pretty much "free" at 16, and absolutely free at 18. So how would the government seek to compel them to study?
I suppose that is the main problem; if they don't want to study no-one can force them. Experience proves there is a seemingly irreducible core who occupy such a category. Hence the danger of simply increasing the time young people will be unhappily 'within' the education system.
You se I think it IS your problem, and mine and everyone else's. If young people are left unemployed they'll turn to crime and then everyone is at risk. I'm presuming you're not in favour of death squads of the type used in Rio and elsewhere in Brazil or any kind of eugenics and other solutions rejected early on in the last century...
No Skipper. I am in favour of prison. That would make eugenics and death squads superfluous. And don't anyone come in with the line about "prison being a training ground for hoolies" and the rest. A one way ticket criminals. That'll cut down on "re-offending" rates.

There we go, regardless of whose problem it is, it would be solved. If only we had a Government that did what the people want...
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