Teachers lose faith in school curriculum to equip students with skills for jobs, says Edge report

Nearly half (47%) of teachers believe there are fewer opportunities to enable their students to develop employability skills and competencies since the introduction of the reformed GCSEs and A levels, a new report by the Edge Foundation highlights today (15 April 2019).

Disturbingly two thirds (66%) of teachers feel the new qualifications allow less opportunity to develop creativity and 61% say the same of teamwork. The results of a survey of 700 secondary school teaching staff, undertaken by education charities Edge and Education Employers in partnership with the National Education Union, are included in Skills Shortages in the UK Economy, the fourth in a series of Edge’s quarterly bulletins bringing together the latest data and evidence on skills. 

While less than half of employers (46%) say that academic qualifications are significant when hiring,  teachers say that the current narrow, content-heavy curriculum is so focused on exam grades, it hampers students from developing the confidence and communication skills they need for working life and beyond.

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

‘This is yet more evidence that our Victorian age curriculum is not fit for purpose. Teachers recognise the need for a breadth of learning to create rounded individuals. They see critical skills such as problem-solving and communication as essential for learning, preparing young people for future careers and wider life.‘Yet the government’s focus on the study of a narrow range of academic subjects with end point assessment and adherence to exam grades as the only measure of success, is creating a rote-learning culture that is completely at odds with the development of 21st century skills. These skills need to be at the heart of the curriculum.’

Over 90% of teachers believe that the top five skills and two of the four competencies cited as essential by employers, are developed in school. Assessment activities scored the lowest percentage of teachers who believe they are a way for students to develop communication, creativity, problem solving, confidence, self-management, teamwork, numeracy, digital, informed, confidence, drive, resilience and reflection.

As the National Education Union (NEU) conference opens in Liverpool today, Joint General Secretary, Dr Mary Bousted commented:

‘This ground-breaking research comes at a vital time. In our uncertain and complex world, so called ‘soft’ or ‘transferable’ skills are increasingly cited as the necessary tools to forge a successful career. A plethora of reports are published each year, detailing the missing skills in young people entering the workplace. It is refreshing then, to introduce research that brings employers’ requirements together with the work that takes place in schools to equip students for the future.’

The report also features research by the CIPD which found that over a third (37%) of UK workers have the skills to cope with more demanding duties, while one in ten (12%) lack the skills they need to do their job. It also found that almost a third (30%) of those surveyed had required a degree to get their job, but didn’t need it to carry out their duties. 

Olly Newton added:

‘The CIPD’s report shows that as many as half (49%) of UK workers are effectively in the wrong job. Once again we see the disconnect between government departments with education policy misaligned to the skills strategy.’ 

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