On the job beats enrolment

August 8, 1997

Britain's "expensive and incomprehensible" education system, with too many students in full-time schooling and mass higher education, is failing to met its economic and social needs, according to a report published today.

The Institute of Personnel and Development report, Working to Learn, calls for a radically revised work-based option in post-compulsory education. "There is certainly a significant group of young people who would not stay in school or college if the work-based option was better," said Ewart Keep, research fellow at Warwick Business School and one of the report's key authors.

"Work-based learning is still seen by parents as the option other peoples' children take," he said.

The report's eight authors, including Karen Evans, director of the University of Surrey's Postgraduate Centre for Professional and Adult Education, and David Raffe, director of the Centre for Educational Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, want to see a baccalaureate-style qualification encompassing all 16-19 study options, with more parity between vocational and academic routes.

Ministers have said that the Government's revision of the 16-19 system will lead to a "single overarching qualification" and the report's authors hope their model will be influential.

Current provision is "fragmented and incoherent", says the report, which criticises A levels as "too narrow, specialised and old-fashioned". Vocational training is "too job-specific, low level and poorly coordinated".

Changes in the way young people's education and training are organised and funded have resulted in an "absurdly complex, expensive and incomprehensible system".

The report also complained that: * Outcome-related funding deters providers from delivering training to those most in need of it * The impact of competition among schools, and colleges has been wasteful * The funding system puts severe pressure on colleges to cut courses.

The report focuses on the inadequacies of the Youth Training Scheme, which "overall must be judged to have failed".

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