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Baker Dearing speaks on House of Lords social mobility panel

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust last week spoke on a panel discussing social mobility, as part of an event on student career readiness.

The event, run by careers and education organisation Springpod, brought together politicians, employers, and educators for two panel discussions.

Baker Dearing’s Director of Education and Innovation Kate Ambrosi was a panellist for the first discussion, titled ‘Social mobility, careers education and skills’. Also on the panel were:

  • The Careers and Enterprise Company Chief Executive Oli de Botton;
  • Siemens GB&I’s Head of Schools and Corporate Citizenship Mark Wood;
  • Education sector expert Jill Hodges;
  • Barnet and Southgate College student Jacob Morgan.

The UTC programme came in for some praise during the session, with its founder and chairman Lord Baker being described as an “inspirational figure in education.”

The “incredibly effective” UTC network was also credited with first connecting Springpod founder Sam Hyams with the UK education world. Springpod has since had half a million students of all ages sign up for its services.

Baker Dearing was itself credited for its “pioneering” work raising the profile of technical education.

Employers help UTCs “stay ahead of the education game”

Kate Ambrosi told the event that having employers so directly involved with each UTC helped them “stay ahead of the education game.”

She cited how employer representatives sit on UTC boards and also help run projects for students. One example of which is a project being run with UTC Media City in Salford and UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, where students are developing an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience to enhance learning about dementia.

The project is being run with a care provider and, Kate says, is allowing young people to “prepare technically for VR,” while they also complete research and engage with dementia experts.

“So it’s building knowledge of a key sector, combined with technical development.”

Kate also discussed the UTC programme’s continuing partnership with the NHS, which has a need for young people skilled in many different fields, not simply health.

To help fill skilled roles in organisations like the health service, Kate said: “All UTC students get a significant amount of preparation for their employment routes.

“Our major way of judging UTCs for their success is that they have sustainable routes.”

Lord Baker: “Greatest change for social mobility would be to the school curriculum”

Later on in the session, Lord Baker, who had been in the audience throughout the panel session, spoke about the need to change the school curriculum to encourage upward social mobility.

Lord Baker speaking during the social mobility panel discussion.

He said: “The purpose of UTCs, now with around 20,000 students, is to give students physical training with tools and equipment.

“Students in our school would spend two days a week in a workshop or a computer room. At 18, they will have employability skills which many youngsters will not have at that age.”

Lord Baker decried the “total mismatch between what industry and commerce want from the education system and what the education system is producing” and called for “radical change” in schools.

“The greatest change for social mobility would be a change in the school curriculum. There have been multiple parliamentary committees which have recommended that Ebacc and Progress 8 should be scrapped immediately, and so should GCSEs.

The former Education Secretary, who introduced GCSEs during his tenure, said he agreed with that: “It’s time for them to go.”

He concluded by “inviting you to be very radical and don’t think social mobility is that wonderful ladder which everyone can scramble up.

“Not all young people will be there unless you change the school curriculum.”