After news broke that only two of the 10 largest multi-academy trusts are actually implementing the so-called Baker Clause, which requires schools to allow technical education providers access to their pupils, the man who fought for the clause in the first place explains why it is so vital that every school complies
A recent survey of university graduates found that one in 10 regretted following the careers advice given to them at school. That is why I endorse the Gatsby benchmarks of good career guidance, now embodied in the government’s own guidance on careers education.
As the skills minister Anne Milton states: “A thriving careers system, that is accessible to everyone, is at the heart of our focus on social mobility. We must break down the barriers to progress that too many people in our country face today and give young people the skills to get on in life.”
Every school and college must now ensure their students, from all walks of life, are enabled to choose what is best for them.
I believe that for too many years technical education has been considered the destination for children deemed by schools to be less academically able. At a recent apprenticeships conference, the head of a very successful school said that she would not consider giving her students, 90 per cent of whom were destined for university, access to information on apprenticeships.
Allowing technical providers to engage their students isn’t about school funding, it is about inspiring students
Why not? Degree-level apprenticeships are every bit as challenging as more academic degrees, with the added difficulty of having to demonstrate the skills and knowledge in the workplace.
In 2014, a study by Sandler Training of over 1,000 SMEs found the majority were more likely to fill their entry-level positions from apprentices and those with practical skills rather than from academic graduates. More recent research by the Edge Foundation, which I chair, demonstrates that this has only been reinforced over the past few years. Two thirds of MPs in a YouGov survey thought that careers information and guidance is too heavily focused towards higher education.
That must be the challenge of a 21st century school – to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to thrive in the workforce and ensure this country can flourish in the global economy.
The government must provide greater clarity for parents and students by ensuring the school and college performance tables, for too long now dominated by academic measures, place greater emphasis on technical qualifications and the destinations of students.
Progress 8, Ebacc and Attainment 8 are no longer sufficient and, in many respects, are deficient measures of the success of our schools and colleges. We must measure the success of our education system by the ability of its graduates to generate wealth for themselves and for the population.
The Baker Clause, section 2 of the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 – which requires schools to allow a range of education and training providers access to pupils to inform them about technical education qualifications and apprenticeships – is such an important addition to the choice debate.
Allowing technical providers to engage their students isn’t about school funding, it is about inspiring students to reach their potential and to make informed choices about where to fulfil that potential.
That is why I am so disappointed at how slow the school system has been to respond. CEOs of multi-academy trusts and local authorities must act to provide the vision and leadership that our students demand.
I do not see section 2 as a threat to the education system, but as an opportunity for schools and colleges to work together to develop new and, in some cases, stronger partnerships, which offer a rich blend of academic and technical education that every student can benefit from.
Armed with those skills, behaviours and knowledge, our school and college leavers will be more employable, achieve more and once again put this country at the forefront of the global economy.
Lord Kenneth Baker is founder of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust