Accountability measures and marketisation at odds with developing employability skills says new report

Accountability measures and marketisation are creating a hostile environment for schools focused on employability skills, says research by the Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) and published by the Edge Foundation.

The report, Employability Skills in Studio Schools: Investigating the use of the CREATE Framework, examined the development and use of the CREATE Framework which is embedded in the concept of the Studio Schools model. Studio Schools aim to cater particularly for students who might benefit from practical approaches to learning and skills development, connecting academic learning to the real world and including work experience. 

CREATE stands for Communication, Relating to Others, Enterprise, Applied Skills, Thinking Skills and Emotional Intelligence, and forms the framework for assessment of students and their skills development from 14-19 years. 

Edge’s Director of Policy and Research, Olly Newton, commented:

‘Frameworks such as CREATE provide teachers, parents and – crucially – students, with a measurement of progression in clearly defined skills which will prepare them for work, careers and the future. Unfortunately, the narrow, academic, exam focused government policy has no context for practically-oriented forms of pedagogy so inevitably outcomes are viewed as failure. There are huge pressures on Studio Schools and similar schools to accommodate the exam-factory market-driven culture, but that simply compromises and inevitably weakens the quality of the framework.’

Researchers chose five different Studio Schools to examine how they had developed and implemented the CREATE framework. They noted they often have to manage sometimes conflicting demands from stakeholders and wider challenges.

SKOPE Researchers, Ashmita Randhawa and James Robson, commented:

‘Studio Schools have the potential to offer innovative approaches to employability skills development. However, the ever-changing policy landscape has left them held hostage to accountability measures, high stakes competition, and ever dwindling funding. This means that they are under constant pressure to move away from innovative structures and educational approaches and return to a mainstream model of schooling. This report highlights the pressures Studio Schools face and outlines the ways some of them have overcome these challenges to develop employability skills effectively.’ 

Commenting on the report, Dan Parkes, Chair of the Studio Schools Network, said:

‘This report recognises that Studio Schools bring real innovation into the secondary school and post-16 education sectors and offer parents, and students, a real alternative to the traditional educational offer. Studio Schools are maturing schools where leaders, like white water rafting enthusiasts, have become adept at navigating turbulent waters. They take students (from their individual starting points) on an accelerated journey onto university and directly into employment.  This report articulates a number of very useful questions and challenges that our network (alongside our partners) will consider and use to help shape the future of the movement.  In the coming post-Brexit years we will see the role of employers in schools develop further – beyond Gatsby benchmarks and industry placements for new T Level qualifications. We recognise that enhanced and reformed employability skills frameworks, like studio schools themselves are an important part of the future education landscape.’ 

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