Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Deadline Tomorrow, Thursday 14th June

Below a response to the Raising Expections Consultation.

Please do use and adapt for more responses.

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Consultation Questions

Chapter 2: The benefits of requiring participation
1. Do you agree that there is a case for introducing compulsory participation to age 18?

No.

Compulsion is a very poor substitute for genuine engagement in education. Learners who are compelled to be involved in education at this stage are very likely to be demotivated, disenchanted, even rebellious and we therefore question the assumption that the best way to have a trained workforce is to force compulsory education onto teenagers.

A better solution would be to remove the barriers to education and training for people both under and over the age of 25, to provide attractive educational options for all, to broaden access to and state funding for tertiary education with a view to including those who already have work experience. We suggest that this would better solve the problem of the skills shortages as identified in the Leitch Report, since the learners involved in education that is freely chosen are more likely to be motivated to learn, and often, as in the case of those who return to train after working, will have a clear idea of the skills they require.

There is a flawed analogy with the previous raising of the school leaving age to the end of the Summer term after the young person's 16h birthday in 1998. This affected relatively few young people for a few months, not the whole youth population for two years. The Secretary of State for Education cites this to the Education Select Committee in April 2007 as the main source of evidence for the benefits of raising the leaving but as the authors or the report themselves point out point out, there was a complex interplay of factors here to do with the age of pupils relative to their classmates as well as the fact that the young people who previously left before final examinations were now staying on a few months to take the exams and get some form of qualification.

In addition the comparison with the school leaving age in other European countries is flawed since there are many other differences between the English education system and those in Europe, not least that we begin formal learning in this country earlier than anywhere else. Why not look at raising the school entry age rather than the school leaving age?

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Chapter 3: A new requirement to participate

In paragraphs 3.2 – 3.10 we set out our central proposal for a requirement to participate.
2. Do you agree that participation should include participation in school, college, work-based learning and accredited training provided by an employer?

No.

Participation must not be compulsory. Funding for training and education opportunities must not be dependent on attendance at an institution or on the acquisition of certain narrow qualifications. This is rigid and inflexible and ignores the wide variety of educational opportunities to be found in employment. (freelance or as an employee), voluntary work and in self-directed learning. We are concerned that the proposals will discriminate heavily against home-based education and also forestall the many flexible and creative approaches to education which we already see in our home educated young people.

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3. Do you agree that the requirement should include a requirement to work towards accredited qualifications?

No.

No because this is inflexible and inappropriate. There are many cases where this would not be the best use of a young person's time, for example for those people working in their own business, who could rightfully be said to be learning all the time, without any accreditation of their learning. Instead more consideration should be given towards supporting the young person to complete a portfolio of work, which would be of far greater benefit in terms of pursuing their interests towards a career. In many areas, qualifications are out-of-date by the time they achieve ratification or accreditation.

It is also unclear how people with unusual learning styles will be catered for in this system. Far too many children with special educational needs are being failed by the inability of the schooling system to cater for their needs. It is not clear how increasing the age of compulsory education and requiring all learners to do accredited qualifications will not simply exacerbate this problem.

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4. Do you agree that for those who are not in employment for a significant part of the week, participation should be in full time education?

No.

If by "education" you mean attendance at an institution or working towards a limited range of qualifications, then of course not. Many home educated young people, for instance, continue their full-time education beyond their 16th birthday, but they do not accept the narrow criteria of education suggested here.

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5. Should full time education be defined for this purpose as at least 16 hours of guided learning per week?

No, should be less

We are dismayed to find that there was not a box with an unambiguous "no". We have therefore checked the box "No, should be less" and by this we mean that there should not be ANY element of mandatory "guided learning". For example, home educated young people are entirely capable of self-directed learning and organising their own curriculum and studies.

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6. Do you agree that a young person who is employed could participate part time?

It may or may not suit the employer or the young person for the work to be part time. It may be highly damaging for both, since the employer may find it hard to fund such a position, may refuse to take on young people, or his business may fail as he cannot access cheap labour, so that the employment options for young people may get significantly worse.

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7. Is a minimum of 280 hours of guided learning per year appropriate for a young person who is employed?

No, should be less.

There should not be a minimum mandatory amount of "guided learning" for young people of this age.

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The central proposition outlined in 3.2 – 3.10 would require a young person to participate until their 18th birthday. An alternative described in para 3.11 would require a young person to participate until either their 18th birthday or they achieve qualifications at level 2, whichever is the earlier.

8. Which version of the policy do you prefer?

They are both wrong. We believe that the 18th birthday cut-off is the thin end of the wedge and that the ultimate plan must be for young people to stay at institutions until the end of the academic year in which they become 18. This is the only way that further education institutions could make funding projections.

From reading the Consultation Document it is clear that the Government favours an age criterion rather than a qualifications criterion but both are wrong. We are looking at a blunt instrument to fine-tune some very different problems here.

1/ Young people are disaffected and disengaged.
2/ Much of the current potential working population does not have Level 2 qualifications (but this includes many older people and it is not suggested that these people will be the target for mandatory education or training) and a substantial proportion are functionally illiterate and innumerate.
3/ An increasing number of jobs in the future will require graduate level skills so the Government identifies Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications as necessary for for entry to university. However, home educated applicants are increasingly finding that university admissions offices look favourably on different academic routes which include innovative freelance work and self-directed study and are not just the run-of-the mill applications from 18 year olds with the same clutch of certificates. This trend should be encouraged and diversity and creativity should be fostered rather than extinguished as they would be by the current proposals.


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Chapter 4: A suitable route for every young person

9. Do you agree that, taken together, the routes outlined in this chapter mean that there will be an appropriate and engaging option for all 16 and 17 year olds by 2013?

No because the present proposals are not sufficiently flexible. In addition the element of compulsion is fundamentally misguided. Education Otherwise is particularly concerned about the emphasis on "attendance" and "participation" and "accredited qualifications" because this is bureaucratic, over-rigid and not suitable to the personalised self-directed learning of home educated young people.

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10. Should there be requirements for young people who are training to do more than just an accredited occupational qualification? (for example, should they be expected to do functional English or maths and/or wider technical education?)

There should not be a requirement for an accredited occupational qualification by the age of 18 and therefore there should not be additional qualification requirements either. This will become an exercise in ticking boxes. Once again this discriminates against young people. We are also unclear as to what 11+ years of compulsory schooling are meant to have achieved if this proposal is even being considered as necessary.

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Chapter 5: Enabling all young people to participate

11. Do you agree financial support should still be provided to young people from low income households, if participation is compulsory?

Participation should not be compulsory and we are not able to answer questions predicated on compulsory participation. On the other hand, the present funding arrangements should not be cut and indeed the Education Maintenance Allowance should be extended to home educated young people aged 16-19.

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12. What would be the right financial support arrangements for young people required to participate to age 18?

Young people should not be required to participate.

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13. Should we consider other incentives, such as withholding driving licences from 17 year olds who are not participating in education or training?

No.

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14. Would the proposals outlined here about support and guidance be enough to ensure that all young people are able to participate, regardless of their personal circumstances?

No because the proposals are impersonal. For example, the educational options will undoubtedly fail significant proportions of young people with SENs, as the current schooling system shows, despite years of trying to facilitate inclusion for all children.

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Chapter 6: Employers playing their part

15. Would the proposals outlined in this chapter provide employers with the right framework to help make sure all 16 and 17 year olds are participating in valuable learning, including those who want to learn as they work?

The proposals discriminate hugely against small businesses and self-employed teenagers. We are unclear as to why the word "want" is being used here when the Consultation Document speaks of 280 + hours of enforced learning as defined by the Government.

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16. Given the benefits of a better skilled workforce, what responsibilities should employers have to encourage young people to participate in education and training?

It is not clear that they should have any responsibilities in this regard. If a skilled workforce is beneficial to them, presumably they will try to acquire one in some way or other. If the skill base is not available to them, then they will either do without and fail, or will have to create it themselves.

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Chapter 7: Making sure young people participate

17. Do you agree that there should be a system of enforcement attached to any new requirement to participate, used only as a last resort?

No, since we do not believe that there should be a legal requirement to participate.


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18. Is it right that the primary responsibility for attending at age 16 and 17 should rest with young people themselves?

We object to the word "responsibility " being used in this context. If we are talking about whether the sanctions and penalties for non-compliance will fall to the parent or the child then we are unable to answer this question as we disagree fundamentally with the thinking behind it. Young people are responsible for their own self-directed learning but they are not "responsible" for complying with an unjust undemocratic system which offers them no choice.


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19. Do you agree that if a parent of a young person is helping them to break to law, it should be possible to hold them accountable as well?

No. Since attendance at an institution/working on accredited qualifications should not be the sole criteria for determining whether someone is "being educated", we fundamentally object to "the law" being cited in this way. The Consultation Document speaks of civil offence rather than criminal offence but this question does not give that impression. Moreover the young person could be living away from home or married by this age.

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20. Is the process outlined in this chapter the right way to try to re-engage young people and enforce the requirement?

No. The answer is in the question. The Government should rather be asking itself WHY so many young people are disengaged and disaffected . The primary issue is motivation. Compulsion and extrinsic rewards and sanctions largely destroy motivation. Home educated young people engage in self-directed learning. They may or may not be working towards a recognised qualification but they are learning all the time and this quality of self-motivation is increasingly being recognised as invaluable by employers and higher education. You cannot compel this level of engagement but you can surely extinguish it by inflexible rigid proposals such as we are reading in this Consultation Document.

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21. On breach of an attendance order, should criminal sanctions be pursued, or civil/administrative ones?

Neither. We fundamentally object to the whole principle of attendance orders.

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22. Please use this space for any general comments you would like to make.

We would welcome a broadening of access to education so that all who are willing could participate. We would welcome the provision of attractive courses with funding being made available, but we would ask that this be done without compulsion and that employers are not forced to provide young people with training since this is likely to result in discrimination against young people. It should be recognised that young people are very likely to learn valuable skills simply in being given the opportunity to work.

7 comments:

Schuyler said...

Well, I just filled in the questionnaire. Man, was that an insightful experience. What complete unthinking people the government employs.

Tech said...

Just done it, boy those ones that wouldn't allow you a straight *NO* response got me seeing red!

Tech said...

Just got my response identifier - only number 329! I hoped there would be far more than that.

Carlotta said...

Ouch, yes...that is only 30 more than yesterday. Whoa, perhaps HEors are staying up late.

Carlotta said...

Some group responses going in soon...just waiting for final mandate!

Anonymous said...

I would love to respond but since I'm on welfare I'm afraid it just backfires for my family. I'll let you middle class folks get on with it.

Tibetan Star said...

http://www.teachers.tv/video/17058

"Jonathan Dimbleby hosts a panel-led studio debate on the raising of the school leaving age"

[thought you might like that link]