Labour’s skills proposals broadly welcomed


Labour’s plans for tackling unemployment among the “forgotten 50 per cent” of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) have been broadly welcomed by teachers’ leaders and others.

The proposals, unveiled by the Independent Skills Taskforce, which was commissioned by Labour and chaired by Professor Chris Husbands, recommend making an element of school funding conditional on pupils progressing post-16, as well as improving careers guidance with the co-operation of local employers.

They state that funding could be withheld from schools where pupils have not progressed post-16 with this money instead being diverted to support the delivery of an “enhanced IAG service for these school to help prevent future NEETs”.

The proposals also include the creation of a new National Baccalaureate for all school-leavers, which would include “rigorous, challenging and labour-responsive vocational qualifications” to help get unemployed young people into work.

This could include core learning (qualifications such as A levels or business and industry-accredited Level 3 vocational qualifications), maths and English, a personal skills development programme, and an extended project.

All young people will also be expected to continue to study mathematics and English up to the age of 18, while character-building and workplace learning are also prioritised. 

The report is expected to be adopted as part of Labour’s education manifesto ahead of the general election.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the report was a “welcome return of focus to success for every student, not just those heading to university”. 

He added: “We should regard 14 to 19 as a coherent phase of education and use qualifications to support this. We should preserve and reward the balance between academic study and character development; both matter. If we are to keep everyone learning maths and English to 18, we must also recognise that it is a mistake to simply repeat what may have failed at 16.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This report makes a compelling case for moving towards a broad, national qualifications system that provides progression for all learners. A new focus on vocational education is needed, along with a way to give these qualifications greater credibility. A National Baccalaureate scheme which provides an accreditation umbrella is an interesting idea and one we would be keen to explore further.”

However, he warned against financial sanctions for schools: “Tracking destinations is important, but it must be recognised this is influenced by more than what happens in schools. Before financial sanctions on schools are proposed, very serious, looming funding pressures must be addressed. We need to see real progress towards a national, fair funding formula.”

Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council, said: “The move towards a much clearer overarching framework for careers information, advice and guidance for young people, building on national and local careers support services, should be the way forward. Employers, schools, colleges, universities and career development professionals working together to improve the careers offer to young people (and parents) is essential.” 

Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary, said: “The talents of the Forgotten 50 per cent – those young people who wish to pursue a vocational route through education – are being overlooked by this government.”


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