Education for teenagers today seems characterised by division. Private versus state schools, EBacc versus standard GCSE, university versus work. And with the recent release of the league tables for schools, it seems the divide is here to stay (or, if it’s getting any smaller, it’s doing so slowly). The league table figures show many schools are still struggling to get pupils up to a basic standard of C in GCSE exams, while other, more fortunate schools power ahead with an average of A* across the board. One way in which ministers and education providers have attempted to empower students and give less academically able teens a chance to construct a decent life is to make work-based learning and apprenticeships more appealing and valuable. However, apprenticeships and the like are still seen as a poor alternative to a degree. What can be done to help struggling students with key skills in maths and English? Is there any better way to provide an alternative to university?
According to commentators, the educational inequalities that persist today result in few poorer children being able to access the most prestigious universities in the country – and therefore low numbers being able to enter desirable professions. Social mobility in the UK, experts state, is as low as it has ever been. Could increasing students’ skills in work-based placements be useful for balancing out opportunity?
Functional Skills and Real-World Learning
The government introduced the requirement that all children should continue in some form of education until the age of 17, and that this could include work-based learning programmes and apprenticeships. Broadening the opportunities for all kinds of students to excel helps solve some of the problems of teens being excluded from the job market now and in the future. In order to progress to the world of work, however, children should be proficient in literacy and numeracy. The Functional Skills qualifications offer children and adults the chance to study for English, maths, and ICT qualifications in a practical way. Pupils can study Functional Skills on a standalone basis or use the qualifications as a stepping stone to GCSE, diplomas, apprenticeships, and Foundation Learning programmes. For more information on how to tackle the Functional Skills curriculum, visit this website designed for pupils and teachers. Students are given a step up – help in tackling tough but essential subjects that nevertheless give them the foundation for their working life, whether this is as a banker, carpenter, or mechanic.
However, if social mobility is to be tackled, educational heads should do more to boost the chances of poorer children being able to attend Oxbridge or other prestigious universities without being cut off due to a lack of opportunity or money. Having viable options open in terms of apprenticeships and work-based training is great, but to really level the playing field, there must be greater equality in university access.