Business and Higher Education appeal for long-term view of education to support economic growth

A new report published today urges the government to radically overhaul the way the current school curriculum is developed to ensure it better meets the needs of the future economy.

The report, 'Making Education Work,' follows a six-month review of England’s education system by an independent advisory group consisting of prominent business leaders and chaired by leading academic Professor Sir Roy Anderson.

The report's key recommendations are:

  • A cross-party body should ensure the school curriculum is aligned to the future economy.
  • A levels should be slowly replaced with a Baccalaureate system.
  • The importance of interpersonal skills should be recognised and evidenced.

With the content of the school curriculum continuing to change with each new administration, the report recommends the establishment of a new independent body, made up of teachers, employers, higher education and importantly, political parties. The new group would aim to establish a long-term political consensus on the school curriculum, with ultimate responsibility for delivering and assessing that curriculum continuing to be vested in the government.

The Making Education Work report also recommends:

  • The A level system should slowly change to a baccalaureate-type system which supports a broader curriculum, to keep career options open and enable flexibility in later life.
  • England should formally adopt a formal framework for key competences, to include important attributes like team working, which are predicted to become increasingly important in the job market.
  • The testing of higher level reasoning skills, rather than just knowledge of theory or facts, should carry greater weight in qualifications, as more roles in the future will require these skills.

A greater emphasis on 'edunomic planning' is needed to tie the development of our education system to our economic aspirations for Britain. Successful businesses have clear objectives and goals which they pursue consistently over time, yet changes in government make it difficult to achieve this for education.

This new independent advisory group on the curriculum will build on the current government’s efforts to bring in a more diverse range of experts and experience into the education system, and create a long term vision for us to work together towards in the interests of young people.

There are also areas where we could do more to embrace the right sort of change. The group was concerned by the realisation that the English classroom and what’s taught in it has changed little in the last 60 years. While the past has much to teach us, that shouldn’t be at the expense of keeping a keen eye on the future.

Sir Roy Anderson, Chair of the independent advisory group

It is very clear that our education system has failed to provide, in an increasingly competitive global world, the skills and competencies that are necessary for business and for the UK economy to succeed.

Over the last 25 years and longer there have been multiple initiatives from different Secretaries of State which have not achieved the necessary improvement in educational standards.

It is therefore time to establish a cross-party apolitical approach to education to move on from our narrow out-dated focus with A levels and to improve on the other competencies necessary for success, including the fundamental need to improve the basic skills of literacy and numeracy which are at an unacceptably low level.

Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT

Study after study has identified a clear skills gap in the job market, which has the potential to grow even larger as the UK and global economy continue to change at a rapid pace.

The global economy is telling us that knowing things is no longer enough. Employers want people who can do things too; practitioners who can think and thinkers who can act.

Like some of the top performing economies abroad, it is important the UK establishes a cross party consensus on education to help plan strategically for the long term needs of the economy.

More roles in the future will require people who can apply their knowledge in the real world, individually and as part of a team. We will be working with the government and others to help ensure the A level and other qualifications we deliver reflect this deeper learning.

This report sets out a compelling vision. The next step is to dig in to these findings and investigate how we can all play our part in making the changes outlined real.

Rod Bristow of Pearson, a member of the panel and head of Pearson UK, which funded the group’s work

The six-month review was carried out by an independent advisory group convened and supported by Pearson, the world’s largest education company. The final report was produced collaboratively between the advisory group, assisted by its Chair, Sir Roy Anderson. The full group membership includes:

  • Jane Beine, Head of Partner Development at John Lewis
  • Rod Bristow, President, Core Markets, Pearson
  • Professor Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor, the University of Reading
  • Professor Nick Butler, Visiting Fellow and Chair of the King’s Policy Institute, King’s College London
  • Dr Jonathan Copus, Chief Financial Officer, Salamander Energy
  • Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, Vice Chancellor, the University of Kent
  • Steve Holliday, Chief Executive, the National Grid
  • Professor Sir John Holman, Professor in the Chemistry Department, University of York
  • Tony Moloney, UK Manager for Education and Skills, the National Grid
  • Professor Clive Page, Professor of Pharmacology and Head of Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, King’s College London
  • Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT Group plc, Deputy Chairman of Barclays PLC, President of the Confederation of British Industry and a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group
  • Ralph Saelzer, Managing Director, Liebherr Sunderland Works
  • Professor David Taylor, Professor of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy, School of Pharmacy, UCL.
  • Sir Roy Anderson FRS FMedSci was Rector of Imperial College London from 1 July 2008 to 31 December 2009, following a 40-year association with the College. He continues to be Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care. Between 2004 and 2007 Sir Roy was on secondment from Imperial College to act as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence. Sir Roy has also served as Director of the Wellcome Centre for Parasite Infections from 1989 to 1993 (at Imperial) and as Director of the Wellcome Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease from 1993 to 2000 (at Oxford). He is the author of over 450 scientific articles and has sat on numerous government and international agency committees advising on public health and disease control including the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS.