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Labour reveals education reforms

All children would have to study English and maths until the age of 18 under a Labour government as the party unveils major changes to the education system.

Labour will reveal plans for a "national baccalaureate" tomorrow in the publication of a report on improving the education of 14 to 19-year-olds.

The proposals are part of a package of reforms designed to cut the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), improve standards in key subjects and get young people ready for the workplace.

The proposed national baccalaureate would be either a "technical bacc" for those seeking vocational training or a "general bacc" for teenagers following a more traditional academic route.

Available at both GCSE and A-level, it would involve attaining significant skills in both English and maths - as well as a pupil's core subjects - following a personal skills development programme and carrying out an extended project.

Labour's reforms, proposed in the report by the party's skills taskforce, would also involve greater responsibility being placed on schools to track what their pupils go on to do, whether it be further education, training or work.

Schools that fail to ensure pupils progress in this way would face losing funding, with the money used to transform careers guidance in those schools and going to local employers to develop partnership programmes offering structured careers advice.

Almost a million young people are currently NEET because careers advice and guidance is inadequate, Labour says.

Tristram Hunt, Labour's shadow education secretary, said the proposals would address the talents of the "forgotten 50%" of young people who want to pursue vocational routes through education.

Condemning Prime Minister David Cameron's view of vocational education as "at best an after-thought", Mr Hunt said: "Reforms must focus on driving up standards in maths and English, strengthening character and resilience and equipping the labour market of the future with the skills set it needs.

"More of the same just won't do."

Professor Chris Husbands, chairman of the skills taskforce and director of the institute of education at the University of London, said: "In Britain, we have a poor record of delivering high skills and effective qualifications for the forgotten 50%: the half of young people for whom the current qualifications regime simply does not deliver."

He added: "The taskforce has set out plans for radically improved information and advice which will help young people negotiate an ever more complex labour market, and for a deliverable national baccalaureate - a simple framework for qualifications and skills which will make it easier for all young people to make the transition to adulthood.

"What we have set out is do-able and practical. Our economic and our social future depends on getting this right."

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has highlighted a strong link between strong vocational education and youth unemployment in the UK, Labour said.

Here, 32% of pupils in upper secondary education take vocational courses, and youth unemployment is at 21%.

This compares to 67% taking vocational courses and 10% unemployed in the Netherlands, and 54% and 9% respectively in Norway.

Mr Hunt said Labour was "not interested in just throwing up change for the sake of it".

He told BBC 1's Sunday Politics: "I don't think you want to waste political energy on un-doing reforms that, in certain situations, build actually, rather successfully on Labour party policy."

Quizzed about the party's plans to force all teachers to obtain qualified teacher status, Mr Hunt insisted it "cannot be right that anyone can simply turn up" to teach children.

Asked if he would sack unqualified teachers, he said: "If they are not interested in proving their skills, if they are not interested in deepening their knowledge, then I don't think they should be in the classroom."

Mr Hunt dismissed comments made previously by Richard Cairns, headmaster of independent Brighton College, that formal teaching qualifications were not necessary, saying teachers at the school had an "easy gig".

"It is a very different set of skills to teach ten nice young boys and girls in Brighton compared to running a class of 30 kids with more challenging circumstances, with special educational needs, with differing abilities.

"Being a teacher at Brighton College is an easy gig compared to being a teacher in some very difficult schools where we want teachers to have the training capacity to be able to teach effectively."


From Belfast Telegraph