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Members of the House of Lords have called on the government to do more to to help the “overlooked middle” of children in Britain’s education system.
More than half of children do not follow an academic route into work after the age of 16 and have inadequate alternatives, harming social mobility and depriving employers of workers, according to a report by the House of Lords committee on social mobility.
The peers called for compulsory teaching of the national curriculum beyond age 14 to be scrapped and for a new careers service.
Pupils aged between 14 and 19 should be taught a core curriculum with tailored academic or vocational elements. The new national careers service should be independent of schools and the responsibility of a single minister.
Jean Corston, who chairs the committee, said: “The current system for helping people move from school to work is failing most young people. They are simply not being adequately prepared for the world of work. This significantly disadvantages a huge number of young people and limits their opportunity for social mobility.”
Successive governments have focused on improving university access and GCSE and A-level results. There have also been sustained efforts to help young people who are “Neets” — not in education, employment or training.
But most young people fall between these groups. Most achieve middling GCSE grades. Of 1.3m 16- to 17-year-olds, less than half started A levels in 2014, and by 2015 less than half of those again sat at least one exam. Two-thirds do not have a degree in their early 20s.
The peers said that the government had “failed a generation” of young people who do not follow the traditional academic route into work. It also criticised the emphasis on apprenticeships.
Government proposals last month to turn all state schools into academies did little to address the “complex and incoherent” system. The result is that many young people “drift into further studies or their first job” with little prospect of progression.
“A young person considering their options for further education or employment is presented with gobbledegook,” said Baroness Corston. “It is totally unclear to them how they can get the skills needed for a successful career.”
Peers said that the gap between funding for those following an academic route and those leaving education was too wide and called for more support for those who decide not to go to university.[“source-Ft”]