Survey: School ‘isn’t preparing pupils to leave school and go to work’

01/05/2023
Daniel Wyatt (rector at Kelvinside Academy)

NEARLY three-quarters of UK parents are worried that the education system isn’t preparing pupils for the workforce. 

Research commissioned by Glasgow school Kelvinside Academy to examine the state of UK education found that 73% of parents do not believe schools are teaching skills relevant to the job market. 

The survey, conducted by independent insights agency Opinion Matters, found that more than a fifth of parents (22%) think the current education system is ‘broken’, while 63% of respondents are worried about the ‘ageing curriculum’ and its ability to equip children for full-time employment.

Another two-thirds (66%) of respondents cited concerns over a ‘one size fits all’ approach to education, while 71% of parents believe that schools are more focused on securing university places than the best interest of individual pupils. 

Meanwhile 40% of 16–24-year-olds surveyed said they felt let down by career advisors at school. 

The UK Government released a schooling white paper last year, largely perceived as a continuation of existing policy, which sparked calls from opposition parties and education leaders for a more radical approach to education reform.

The case for alternative schooling is already successfully being made by Kelvinside Academy, an independent school in Glasgow, Scotland.

More than 25 S5 and S6 Kelvinside Academy pupils have already taken on foundation apprenticeships, which enable them to spend time learning vocational skills at colleges. Kelvinside is the first Scottish independent school to offer the courses during the timetabled curriculum. 

It’s part of a bespoke career pathway programme for every pupil that begins with one-to-one meetings at every stage of their development – including the selection of subjects – from S2-S5.

In 2019, Kelvinside opened the UK’s first full-time ‘innovation school’, designed to shake up traditional education approaches. 

The £2.5m facility, a partnership between the academy and US-based NuVu, encourages pupils to engage in hands-on problem solving and creative solutions rather than book-based learning. 

The school comes equipped with a ‘workshop’ with 3D printers and laser cutters, a ‘photo studio’ and ‘creative space’ rather than classrooms. Students can choose NuVu as a subject in the same way as they would choose maths, English or science.

Kelvinside Academy Rector Dan Wyatt said the school wishes to work with the Scottish and UK governments to overhaul the curriculum and lead the way for alternative teaching methods to become mainstream. 

He said: “We all know by now that not all young people learn the same way. What’s already happening at Kelvinside Academy is an example of what can be possible when teaching is more centred around skills and practical experience.

“As this year’s diet of exams begin, we are compelled to work within the structure and requirements of an outmoded process. Successful young adults need to be creative, collaborative researchers who can apply knowledge to solving problems that will increase business and commercial success.

“Pupils need a flexible learning environment where they can develop the skills needed to become experts, innovators and entrepreneurs. The UK’s education system needs to change, and we want to work alongside the Scottish and UK governments to help the way we learn in this country for the better.

“According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), in the academic year 2019/20, there were 12,440 postgraduate research students in Scotland alone, which is just 2.3% of the total student population. The majority of school learners will not progress on to highly academic career pathways and we must prepare our young people with the skills and competencies that will lead to productive and meaningful employment.

“School pupils must not be left behind in a global jobs market. We need serious change to deliver a well-rounded and future-focused education that offers practical experience and application of knowledge, rather than sitting and nodding.”  

He added: “We commissioned this research because, we, as educators, need to be as informed as possible about the choices we make. The world or work has changed immeasurably, and schools must break the cycle of laser focus on grades and university alone and embrace diversification and new methods that better prepare young people for what comes next – be it industry, entrepreneurship, technology, sport, music, or wherever they excel. 

“The freedom we enjoy to carve our own path in the independent sector means we can make progressive choices and pilot methods that pave the way for true innovation in all forms of education.

“Our young people face an uncertain future; we want to work with the UK and Scottish governments to help transform education for the better.”

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