Social mobility in Britain is hampered by a “culture of inequality” that penalises school leavers who enter the workforce rather than higher education, according to a parliamentary report.
An investigation by the House of Lords committee on social mobility called for radical revisions to the content of schooling from the age of 14, to better prepare teenagers who do not go on to university for the world of work.
“The current system for helping people move from school to work is failing most young people,” said Lady Corston, who chaired the committee. “They are simply not being adequately prepared for the world of work. This significantly disadvantages a huge number of young people and limits their opportunity for social mobility.”
I completely agree. When students choose not to go to university, they should be prepared and capable to be able to puruse their chosen vocational pathway.
Young people were in danger of being trapped in low-skilled, low-paid work, with little chance of a rewarding career, she said. “A young person considering their options for further education or employment is presented with gobbledygook. It is totally unclear to them how they can get the skills needed for a successful career.”
The report, Overlooked and Left Behind, argues that “a culture of inequality between vocational and academic routes to work” pervades the education system.
It concludes: “The expansion of higher education has served some groups well. It has, however, disadvantaged those already underserved by the education system and inhibited upwards social mobility for those in the middle.
“Non-academic routes to employment are complex, confusing and incoherent. The qualifications system is similarly confused and has been subjected to continual change.”
Instead, the final four years of schooling should be redesigned so that more pupils can pass recognised vocational qualifications on a par with A-levels.
In New Zealand's case, we need to remember that in many cases student benefit more not by going to university but by going straight into work (as long as they are entering a career and not a job), going to alternative tertiary institutions such polytechnics for trade training and trade apprenticeships. As long as students are thinking in terms of "careers" over "jobs", our country will benefit.