Dated: 20 August 2009
Commenting on the publication of this year’s A-level results, Miles Templeman, Director General of the Institute of Directors (IoD), said:
“Today is a landmark day for thousands of students and is the culmination of, and reward for, months of hard work. It is not surprising that the level of interest in the results is so high. At the same time, there is a perfectly legitimate debate to be had about quality of output in education as in all other public services, and it is right to explore how we can better prepare young people for further education and employment.
“But as important as those issues are, today is not the time for that debate. In a tough recruitment market and with a squeeze on university places, our immediate focus should be on those young people who haven’t got the results they were expecting and the 835,000 18-24 year olds not in education, employment or training. The second area of focus must be renewed emphasis on what really concerns employers – improving basic skills. Better literacy and numeracy is the number one priority, not qualification reform. However, in the context of the importance businesses place on the STEM subjects, the increase in entries in A-level science and maths is extremely welcome.”
In an IoD survey of 1,316 directors, released today, 33% report that some of their organisation’s employees lack basic skills such as literacy, numeracy or IT. Of these employers, 70% said that the weaknesses are a significant problem. For IoD members, improving literacy and numeracy is the top-rated policy priority for the next government.
Priorities in education (proportion of directors rating each area as a high priority)
• Improve standards of literacy and numeracy: 86%
• Increase number of young people studying STEM subjects: 80%
• Improve young people’s employability skills: 79%
• Build stronger links between employers and education: 70%
• Improve the quality of teaching: 69%
• Improve vocational education and qualifications: 63%
• Give schools and colleges more autonomy: 53%
• Reform of the qualifications system: 19%
Notes to editors
• The survey of 1,316 directors, members of the IoD’s Policy Voice research community, was conducted between 29 July and 10 August 2009.
• Directors participating in the survey were asked what they believed, from an employer’s perspective, should be the priorities for the next government – of whatever party – to address in seeking to improve the education system. Using a five-point scale (1 = very low priority, 5 = very high priority), directors were asked to rate a range of possible initiatives according to their level of priority. The figures quoted above show the proportion of directors rating an area either 4 or 5 – i.e. as a high priority.
• The pace of improvement in literacy and numeracy achievement in schools has slowed considerably since the year 2000. In 2008, nearly 30% of 11 year olds did not reach the expected standard for their age in all three subjects of English, maths and science.
• Basic skills weaknesses are a major problem in the adult workforce too. According to the latest analysis by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, the UK’s relative international position is deteriorating. On recent trends, the UK Commission estimates that the UK is likely to be ranked 23rd in the OECD on low level skills by 2020, compared to 17th today. See Ambition 2020: World Class Skills and Jobs for the UK (UKCES, May 2009).