Halfon quoted information from Edge’s recent report on the impact of Covid-19 on education to show the impact of lockdown on young people’s access to education and mental health – for instance, evidence from the Sutton Trust which shows the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better off peers has widened with 55% of teacher at the least affluent state schools reporting a lower than normal standard of work returned by pupils compared to 41% at state and private schools.
He went on to highlight the challenges facing the economy and young people seeking to move into the labour market, from Edge’s skills shortages bulletin published last week. For instance, findings from the Department for Education’s own Employer Skills Survey showed that in 2019, nearly a quarter of vacancies- 214,000 roles- were skills shortage vacancies. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics estimate that 757,000 young people (aged 16-23 years) were NEET (not in education, employment or training) in July to September 2020.
Halfon highlighted that, with an education system built on foundations as far back as 1911, it’s no wonder that it is failing to meet the needs of employers more than a hundred years later. GCSEs were introduced in the 1980s to assess young people at the end of their formal education. Since 2015, all students have to stay in education up to the age of 18, so it’s time for the education and assessment systems to catch up.
“For too long, this argument has been characterised as one of polar opposites. Between traditionalists and progressives. Between knowledge and skills. Between vocational and academic. I am in support of a “What works” approach, not a one size fits all system.”
Robert is backing an end to written exams as the only form of assessment – instead he wants to blend together knowledge, skills and attitudes in our assessment system and in the teaching that underpins it. That is what employers want and international experts like OECD recommend. He praised the International Baccalaureate and institutions like the Edge Hotel School in Essex and XP School in Doncaster which blend knowledge and practical experience.
“Knowledge is only useful where individuals have the skills to interpret and communicate it, and skills are only useful where young people have a core knowledge to draw from. A surgeon cannot rely on their knowledge alone, they need skills like team work, good communication and the ability to sew to get the job done.”
The Edge Foundation is a founding member and supporter of the Rethinking Assessment movement, which aims to provide a strong evidence base for the changes that Halfon set out. Key members of the movement joined the panel discussion following his speech. Contributions and key points included: