Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Radical ideas at regional policy forum

Our session at the regional conference focused on skills for work, drawing together our earlier work on education and manufacturing.

We welcomed Clive Hickman, chair of the division of manufacturing of the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers to talk about skills development.

Clive is also chief executive of the Coventry Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Clive identified three problems: industry cannot get engineers; millions of
young adults are unemployed; graduates are coming out of university with
degrees that do not equip them for jobs.

His solution is radical. He suggests policy should shift away from 50% of
young people doing degrees.

Instead he suggests:

  • 30% to do degrees;
  • 40% to do four year apprenticeships, generally between the ages of 16 and 
  • 20; 30% to take on less skilled jobs.

In conversation with me prior to the session, Clive pointed out the extent to
which UK manufacturing is an increasing success story. Within a few
years the UK will be producing more motor vehicles than ever in its history -
about 2 million a year, he reckons. The coalition government has backed
industry and continues to put investment into our region via the Regional Growt
h Fund and LEPs.

Clive's proposal is radical but he was keen to stress that a great deal more can
be done with apprenticeships. We discussed with him about graduate
expectations and the possibility of formalising - as graduate apprenticeships -
more of the in-work training that most graduates have to do. He also set out
how his own organisation is proposing a new model of apprenticeship aimed at
supporting the needs of small business.

The discussion brought together two threads of our work from the last few
years, manufacturing and education. There seemed general consensus to
keep up our investigations. In particular the ideas provoked by Clive's
comments should help us as the party's working group on post-16 education
(which Lee Dargue is on) comes up with findings.

If you are a member of the Lib Dems in the West Mids region and would like to be involved with our work, please get in touch

Cllr Jon Hunt , regional policy chair

Friday, September 14, 2012

Conference amendment

Amendment to motion F6 Getting the Most out of Schools, submitted by West Midlands Region to Liberal Democrat autumn conference 2012:

Following the words
"To improve vocational education, conference calls for:"
Delete lines 27-28 and 40, currently reading:
"i) Clear pathways to be developed for those undertaking vocational courses so that they
remain a legitimate and valued alternative to academic courses."
"vi) A vocational equivalent to the EBacc."

Insert new:
i) reaffirmation of the party's long-standing commitment to the integration of academic and vocational education;

vi) development of new GCSEs to provide challenge, choice and opportunity for all students through vocational and academic options.

Add the following lines:

Conference further instructs Federal Policy committee to develop proposals for Liberal Democrat policies for 14-19 education that provide opportunities for all young people, in line with the above principles and including the following:

1) commissioning of 14-19 education to lie with local education authorities, who will be charged with ensuring students have adequate choice and opportunity;

2) establishment of an Open School to provide virtual resources and learning for new and expanded student options.

Proposer: Cllr Jon Hunt, regional policy chair, chair education scrutiny Birmingham city council 2005-2011
Summator: Lee Dargue, regional vice-chair, regional education spokesperson

Purpose of amendment:
this amendment reflects the findings of a major project undertaken by West Midlands region's policy committee and its regional conference. It was to have been a separate motion next year but clearly F6 deals with the same area.

Our proposals call for the creation of distinctive Liberal Democrat policy, based on the concepts of choice and opportunity for young people, as opposed to "tweaking" coalition policy, as we believe F6 does.

- reaffirms party commitment to integration of academic and vocational education;
- prevents any impression that the Ebacc is party policy (it emanates from the Tory half of the coalition);
- sets out some new principles around choice which should be explored to create an imaginative new policy based on Liberal Democrat principles and building on the education system created by the coalition government;
- sets out some extra proposals to achieve this:
* an Open School;
* commissioning role for local authorities;
- provides and clarifies potential role for local authorities within education;
- calls for more work by FPC to develop these policies into an attractive and workable package for 2015.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beyond the Ebacc - Choice and Opportunity in Education

Liberal Democrats think all young people deserve to leave school having achieved and learned to the best of their ability.

Our regional project Beyond the Ebacc has been thinking how this might be achieved in 2015 - following the next general election.

The coalition has introduced the English Baccalaureate which rewards young people for studying English, Maths, Sciences, Foreign Languages and history or geography. Last year just 16 per cent of young people achieved this - and the government now predicts that within two years 47 per cent of 16-year-olds will be taking these subjects. Fewer than half.

We think we can do better - a great deal better.

An Open School

This idea came to us from an educationalist - we think it could unlock student choice and diversity in teaching.

It's not like the Open University - offering stand alone courses and qualifications.

But it could offer "bolt on" courses to schools.

It would be mainly virtual, using IT for teaching. In some cases where schools have a minority of students interested in a particular module, they would study that module through the Open School.

In other cases, it would offer teacher training and resources, enabling teachers to offer their students a wider range of modules.

Your ideas?

To bacc or not to bacc?

One of the key issues we want to reach a conclusion on is the extent to which the English Baccalaureate should become a portfolio (ie a single) qualification.

We recognise the present Ebacc seeks to achieve two things:
1/ it ensures "academic" subjects, especially languages, are on the curriculum of most if not all schools; this is what we call entitlement - ensuring all students have access to these subjects.
2/ it seeks to set the benchmark students should achieve if they are to go on to do academic subjects at university - that's the portfolio bit - a recognisable qualification.

Previous Lib Dem policy sought something similar via a diploma - but unlike the Ebacc it did not specify the subjects to be included to the same extent.

Our Ebacc2 proposal merges the two.