The Department for Education has released a document in response to the scrutiny received from a House of Lords select committee over charges that the government has under-represented the 53% of 14-24 year olds who do not follow traditional academic routes into work. The committee previously outlined the problems faced by young people making the transition from school to work.
The majority of students who leave school at 16 or who do not go into higher education are being trapped in low paying jobs, according to a statement made by leader of the select committee Baroness Corston.
The committee recommended 8 possible rectifications that the government could make to their current policies of austerity, deregulation and competition that are ‘failing most young people’ according to Corston, a report from the Parliament website notes. The Department for Education appear to have overviewed and defended these rectifications with calculated responses.
One of the most discounting responses in the document that the Department for Education gave came in light of the recommendation from Baroness Corston’s committee that they should ’embed life skills’ in the school curriculum. The government responded by claiming that employers and businesses, as well as parents and teachers, value ‘resilience, respect, enthusiasm and creativity’ just as much as ‘academic or technical skills’. The former, the government claims, is being practiced in schools at present through PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education. The latter, according to the document, is currently ‘schools’ priority, not the governments’.
The only ‘skills’ that the Department for Education list in the document are ‘the ability to bounce back from a challenge’ and ‘the ability to work well with others’. This was a pertinent factor in the complaint registered by the National Union of Students (NUS) which voiced students’ concerns over the lack of skills-based information they were receiving, and it wasn’t addressed with the compliance that they asked for.
Another similarly dismissive response was given to the committee’s suggestion that the ‘responsible Cabinet Minister should report on progress annually to Parliament’, to which the government replied, ‘we are already reporting progress in a number of ways’. In their response they mention figures drawn from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that appear to show that there are fewer young people considered NEET (not in education, employment or training). They refer to NEET statistics in another response aimed at the suggestion from the committee that the transition period between school and university should ‘be the responsibility of a Cabinet Minister’.
The austerity measures taken by the government that were outlined in the White Paper in May are, according to the National union of Teachers (NUT), limiting opportunities for worthwhile careers. Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, said that austerity is to blame for the poor conditions a significant number of UK youth face:
“On average, nine children in a class of 30 are growing up in poverty. It is high time that the Government realises how its austerity policies are responsible for this situation.”
In other responses to the suggestions made by the select committee, the Department for Education have agreed that non-acedemic routes to work are ‘complex, confusing and incoherent’. They say that their reforms to technical education alone are evidence of aiding this problem.
Other areas for improvement include existing recruitment practices that ‘hinder upward mobility’ according to the select committee. The government have accepted that employers often rely on networking when choosing from potential job candidates. In their response they mention the success that the Social Mobility Business Compact introduced in 2014 has had on social mobility. Nearly 200 businesses have signed up to the compact allowing ‘fair, accessible, high quality work experience and internship opportunities’ to young people taking the vocational pathway to employment.
The select committee praise the opportunities given to young people, but add that ‘they are not for everyone’.