What’s in the Labour Party manifesto about careers?

labour manifesto

Following yesterday’s review of the Conservative manifesto I thought that I better push on and look at the ideas of the main challenger for the throne. So today I review the Labour Party manifesto (Britain Can Be Better).

The manifesto begins with the Budget Responsibility Lock which is a play by the party for credibility on the economy. In essence this is about working within the frame of austerity that has been set by the current government. If Labour are elected it is clear that the deficit will continue to rule British politics.

The manifesto is a rather verbose document which is bigger on rhetoric than policy. It preambles along with lots of stuff about the importance of “working people”. Rarely a sentence is offered up without the words “work” or “working” (although never “workers”). One interesting section is found on p.23 where the issue of job quality is addressed. Whereas the Conservative manifesto promises jobs for everyone the Labour manifesto thinks a bit more deeply about what these jobs might look like. There are promises to increase the minimum wage and ban zero hour contracts.

On young people the Labour Party promise to reduce higher education fees, end youth unemployment (through more benefit conditionality) and create more apprenticeships. On apprenticeships there is a little more detail than the Conservatives offer, but it remains rather vague as to how this big upsurge will be achieved.

The party also has a section on education (education, education) which promises to protect school budgets, invest in vocational education and further education. It also reinforces Tristram Hunt’s campaign for professionalism in schools. There is some evidence of purposeful changes being planned here: the introduction of Directors of School Standards to oversee the education system; an end to free schools; a radical sounding but ultimately conservative fudge to protect state funding to private schools; more sex education; more character education and so on.

Importantly for readers of this blog the party also promises

We will introduce a new, independent system of careers advice, offering personalised face-to-face guidance on routes into university and apprenticeships.

The manifesto leaves the details of this vague but press coverage suggested that it was probably worth about £50 million.

The Labour manifesto certainly suggests a greater interest in careers issues than the Conservative equivalent. But, there is a lot of detail left vague (as is usual). The education element of the manifesto displays some more original thinking than the employment section, but there are welcome promises in both.

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UCU pre-election manifesto on the knowledge economy

I have just read the UCU pre-election manifesto on the knowledge economy.

I think that it is an excellent document which sets out 15 practical policies that the next government could adopt around education and skills. There is, as you would expect, lots of good stuff on higher education funding and the management of higher education. However, it also includes very positive policies on Apprenticeship, lifelong learning and youth unemployment.

Obviously I was very encouraged to see one of its 15 policies being on career guidance.

Over haul career education. High quality, impartial career guidance is essential if students are to fully understand the different study options available to them and make an informed choice about their future education and employment plans. This should be free to all and available not only during initial education, but also throughout further and higher study and beyond. Adequate resource should be invested to allow face-to-face and telephone support as well as the provision of online resources.

I think that this document is a very important one and one that those who are interested in education policy should mobilise around. Thanks to you the UCU for pulling it together.

School Wars

school wars

I’ve just finished reading Melissa Benn’s School Wars. It is a fantastic polemical read which takes you through the history and recent present of school policy in England. I found it hugely valuable to have someone set down so much sense (ie what I believe) about education in when so much of what I hear every day is nonsense.

Benn makes the following main arguments in the book:

  • The media constantly attacks and misrepresents state, and particularly comprehensive, education. The picture that is painted of state education is largely incorrect and those who do the painting largely have little experience of state, comprehensive, education.
  • An important theme in much government policy has been to maintain a divided education system in which different classes are educated separately. In general this has benefitted the rich and disadvantaged the poor. This attempt to separate out different classes is socially divisive and educationally counter-productive.
  • Those in the private school system frequently feel that they know what is wrong with state schooling. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that, when you take away the increased resources and the ability to select for social and educational advantage, private schools perform any better than their state equivalents. Even if they are better it is highly doubtful that their prescriptions for change will work in very different schools with different social mixes and lower levels of resourcing.
  • Politicians are nervous about openly backing systems that seem inequitable, but despite this they have never really backed comprehensive education. There has been a constant tinkering and trimming around the edges of the comprehensive system and the result has been an increasing amount of selection which has tended to operate on a class basis.
  • Education policy has become increasingly centralist and the conception of what education actually is has become increasingly narrow.
  • Education policy over the last twenty years has gradually opened up schools to the private sector. One aspect of this has been various schemes that have sought to subsidise private education through channelling public money into private schools. A second, and probably even more worrying, aspect has been the various policies that have taken educational services or whole schools away from democratic local control and delivered them into the hands of private companies.
  • There is very little evidence that suggests that the array of new types of schools (usually with increased selection and decreased democratic control) or the involvement of private schools or education companies in the running of schools has actually led to any sustained improvements. In fact in general the evidence suggests that many of these new types of schools and alternative funding and governance arrangements have experienced considerable problems in either their pedagogic approach or their business model.

So where does this leave us? Benn says that we need to reinvigorate policies that support a comprehensive education that brings together social classes and delivers mixed ability teaching, that we should also support democratic, local control of schools and refrain from selling off schools to the highest bidder, that we should be sceptical of the solutions offered by those in the private schools and that we should avoid state subsidy of these schools and that we should support increasing professionalisation of school teaching staff and not try and dictate curriculum from the Department for Education.

I’m with her! Some how I doubt that Mr Gove will be.

Education Committee publishes Careers Guidance for Young People Report Education Committee

The Education Committee report on career guidance in schools is published this morning.

Education Committee – Seventh Report. Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools

Because I was the Specialist Adviser to the committee I’m not allowed to comment on the report in public. However, I’ll just say it is worth a read and leave it at that.

More on the House of Commons Education Committee Inquiry into Career Guidance with Young People

The Inquiry continues to progress. The Committee have now taken written evidence, undertaken a field visit, heard from young people and taken one session of oral evidence. In the oral evidence they heard from employers, colleges and local authorities. The transcript of this session is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmeduc/uc632-i/uc63201.htm.

The second session is today starting from 9.30 and you can watch it online at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11849

House of Commons Education Committee inquiry into careers guidance for young people

Tomorrow sees the first session of the inquiry into careers guidance for young people. The inquiry has been held in the light of the new statutory duty on schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11.

Written submissions were asked to considering:

  • the purpose, nature, quality and impartiality of careers guidance provided by schools and colleges,
  • including schools with sixth forms and academies, and how well-prepared schools are to fulfil their new duty;
  • the extent of face-to-face guidance offered to young people;
  • at what age careers guidance should be provided to young people;
  • the role of local authorities in careers guidance for young people;
  • the effectiveness of targeted guidance and support offered to specific groups, such as Looked After Children, children eligible for Free School Meals, teenage parents, young offenders, those with special educational needs or disabilities and those at risk of becoming NEET;
  • the link between careers guidance and the choices young people make on leaving school;  
    the overall coherence of the careers guidance offered to young people.

We can expect the inquiry to pursue these issues further.

You can watch the whole thing online at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11666

What is more if you look carefully you might even be able to see me in the background as I’ve been asked to advise the committee.