A new manifesto from a leading educational charity is calling on the next government to prioritise technical education as a means of tackling the UK’s chronic productivity crisis.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which supports 44 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) across the UK, has published the manifesto to coincide with this year’s party conferences, at which Labour and the Conservatives will likely be planning for a 2024 election.
The manifesto contains four key recommendations, aimed at boosting the UK’s productivity and competitiveness:
- The pre-16 curriculum should focus on employability.
- T Levels should complement, not replace, existing qualifications.
- Appropriate funding should be available for pre-16 technical education subjects.
- Technical education should be enhanced by establishing UTC provisions within existing schools.
New government must act to tap into young peoples’ passion for technical education
With the support of local employers and universities, UTCs teach students the technical and employability skills they will need for successful careers.
This increasingly distinguishes UTCs from the mainstream school system, where the teaching of technical and creative subjects is in decline:
- Design and technology GCSE entries have fallen by over 70 per cent since 2010.
- Entries into digital qualifications for 16 year olds have dropped by 40 per cent since 2015.
- Creative subject entries have decreased by 40 per cent since 2010.
Analysis released by the House of Commons Library in August showed that growth in UK productivity slowed after the 2008/09 recession, a trend which has continued since Covid.
Baker Dearing argues that the solution to boosting productivity lies in unlocking the passion of young people for technical education. Students are increasingly aware of pathways other than university, including apprenticeships, and are enthusiastic for technical subjects and employer engagement.
Yet reports released over the past 18 months by several highly respected bodies, including the Times Education Commission, have found that the UK is still wedded to an ‘unfit for purpose’ purely academic curriculum.
Baker Dearing argues that, by adopting the proposed reforms, the government will help build a pipeline of highly skilled and forward-thinking young people into industry.
Commenting on the new manifesto, Baker Dearing Chief Executive Simon Connell said:
“The UK faces a number of economic challenges. Our productivity growth has been sluggish for over a decade and employers cannot find enough skilled people to fill vital roles.
“There is no magic wand which will fix these problems overnight. We need a complete sea change in our education and training approach, prioritising technical and employability skills and new models of delivery.
“T Levels are a step in the right direction, and our UTC Sleeve initiative, which replicates our brand of employer-led technical education within existing schools, has been warmly welcomed by headteachers and multi-academy trust leaders.
“But a wholesale approach to tackling the UK’s chronic productivity crisis will mean making technical education subjects affordable for schools and ensuring that what is being delivered matches what employers need.”
- Provisional GCSE (Full Course) Results – June 2010, JCQ: https://www.jcq.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/JCQ-Results-24-08-10.pdf
- Provisional GCSE (Full Course) Results – June 2023, JCQ: https://www.jcq.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/GCSE-FC-Cat-1-Summary-June-2023-v1.1.xlsx