October 31, 2018 dmh


A NEW REPORT ‘Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System’ by Edge Future Learning

This report commissioned by The Edge Foundation examines the current  education policy in England for those  up to the age of 16. It begins by analysing the current skills shortage in the labour market which it claims will be further enhanced following Brexit and the Fourth Industrial Revolution  and states:

“The Government’s current strategy is to address these twenty-first century skills shortages using a curriculum and pedagogy from the late nineteenth century.”

The report highlights that the Education policy :-

is designed to promote a ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum learned by rote for stringent end-point examinations. Its primary aims are to ensure that as many young people as possible have studied the so-called ‘facilitating subjects’ that could allow them entry to a Russell Group University and to accelerate the UK’s standing in the international PISA tables. This provides a very narrow focus that meets the needs of a minority and fails to give all young people the skills that employers have clearly asked for in their workforce of the future.”

The report continues…

“At the same time, the Government’s Careers Strategy suggests that young people should be receiving a high quality set of careers support and employer engagement to help them to consider their future options. The benchmarks designed by colleagues at the Gatsby Foundation  are a highly effective tool for underpinning excellent careers guidance, but only where they are fully implemented in spirit as well as to the letter.”

References to careers work in Edge Foundation Report include:

“Careers guidance and employer engagement will only truly become a priority in all schools, as it has been in the pioneering schools that have been part of the Gatsby pilot in the North East, when this is properly funded and reflected in a more holistic accountability system based on the destinations of a school’s pupils. As we showed in Our Plan for 14-19 Education, if funding for Connexions had been properly distributed to schools rather than drawn back into the Treasury, every secondary school would have received at least £100,000, enough to support a full time senior Careers Leader and programme of employer activities (p.16).

Quotation page 17


  • Secondary education up to the age of 16 is a 19th century curriculum designed to focus on the Russell Group ‘facilitating subjects’ and on PISA scores. A narrow ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum that excludes technical education and creativity goes directly against what is expected of the education system.
  • Whilst the Gatsby benchmarks are a step in the right direction, without proper accountability and funding in the area of career advice and guidance, schools may be under pressure to implement these as a tick-box exercise rather than an opportunity for rich employer engagement.
  • Post-16, the narrow focus continues as young people are asked to make a binary choice between an academic and technical route.
  • Within the academic route, technical and creative subjects continue to be pushed out, while T-Levels are lagging behind and risk not securing enough employer placements to succeed.
  • Apprenticeships offer excellent opportunities, but only to a small and reducing number of young people starting their careers and then risk too narrow an approach to meet the changing needs of the labour market.

The SKOPE research centre at Oxford University are leading research looking at the ways in which the innovative CREATE curriculum is being used within Studio Schools.

The first phase of work by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on UTCs highlighted some of the excellent work being done on project based learning and employer engagement in some of these schools, as well as some important lessons for wider practice. The team are currently looking in more depth at three UTCs to inform a second report for publication at the end of 2018. Dr Tami McCrone, lead researcher, reflects on the top five lessons for practitioners from this piece of work.

  1. Research and understand your local economy and build productive relationships with businesses and other institutions throughout the local community. Nurture working relationships with employers over the medium- and long-term.
  2. Take a proactive approach to working with employers to achieve a common vision that is mutually beneficial to teachers and employers and ultimately benefits young people. Point out to employers that involvement in their local school/college can provide benefits to them in terms of meeting their future recruitment needs
  3. Provide CPD for teachers and staff working with employers to deliver project based learning in technical subjects. Such training and support should include not only updates on current business and industry practice but also techniques on how to value and work collaboratively and effectively with employers.
  4. Ensure that the employer is contributing in a way, and at a level, that suits them. Provide employers with very clear guidance on exactly how they can work with the school/college and what is expected of them by when. Emphasise the importance of ensuring that employer representatives who work with young people can relate to them and are happy to do so.
  5. Provide students with genuine and meaningful employer experiences. These should encompass authentic projects that contribute to qualifications or deliver useful knowledge and skills that young people can use for CVs, job/apprenticeship/university applications or in interviews. They should also be overtly relevant to employers. Such experiences will develop young people’s transferable skills and confidence and help them to take advantage of positive progression opportunities.


  • inspire and manage a real debate about the underlying principles and philosophy of English education, creating the philosophical underpinnings for long term change.
  • develop and publish a framework for Future Learning based on a strong evidence base and deep learning from the world’s leading models.
  • continue to deliver real change on the ground – through high quality teacher externships, interactive curriculum projects and careers events, and through the development of our first Hub in the North East of England.

“Now is the time to act. The economy is crying out for a workforce capable of delivering twenty-first century skills and our current education system has proven itself inadequate to the task. Fundamental change is necessary. We have all of the evidence and tools we need to deliver it.”


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