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Reform needed says employers' group

CBI urges shake-up of key skills deliverer in Scotland

Hugh AitkenSkills Development Scotland needs to be reformed to put business at the centre of its activities, says employers’ group CBI Scotland.

The CBI says it should be part of a wider shake-up of the education system that ensures young people are ready for work.

“Employers have long called for a school system which develops confident, enterprising and ambitious young people – and that’s why business supports Curriculum for Excellence,” it said in a report Delivering Excellence issued today.

“But action is needed to deliver an education system that works for every student and enables Scotland to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Among the measures the CBI is calling for are more controls to be devolved to schools to empower school leaders and teachers, and further action to open up the teaching profession and to support continuing professional development (CPD).

The report also argues that the Scottish inspectorate should be made independent to give it the strength to challenge schools and local authorities effectively, and to drive up standards. Inspection measures should also be realigned to ensure that schools focus equally on academic progression and on the development of the broader behaviours set out in Curriculum for Excellence.

According to CBI research, attitudes (85%) and attributes (71%) are the most important factors employers consider when recruiting.

The CBI is calling for Skills Development Scotland to be reformed to include a strong business voice in the design and delivery of careers provision.

Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland Director (pictured), said: “Improving our education system is critical for the success of Scottish businesses and the long-term health of our economy. And more importantly, we need to make sure that every young person gets the best possible start in life.

“Curriculum for Excellence has laid strong foundations with its dual focus on academic attainment and developing the broader behaviours needed for success in work and life.

“But for the Scottish education system to be truly world class, more power needs to be devolved to schools, alongside a radical shake-up of the inspection regime to ensure zero tolerance of poor performance.

“The careers system in particular remains a weak link in the system. The vast majority of businesses do not think our careers advice is good enough – and vocational routes and apprenticeships continue to be undersold to young people. We must do more to encourage businesses, schools and colleges to work together to better inform and inspire our young people about the full range of careers on offer –and of the different routes available.”

The CBI would like to see mandatory work experience and careers talks for pupils throughout the 3-18 curriculum. And all political parties should commit to Invest in Youth Groups to support local business placements for teachers.

Despite significant reform, the CBI says there has been little progress in closing the attainment gap between children from different socio-economic backgrounds and too many young people are still allowed to fall behind.

It says the government’s focus on early years learning and the aspiration to increase the number of free childcare hours to 30 per week for all 3 and 4 year olds by the end of the next Parliament is a step in the right direction – as quality childcare has a significant impact on children’s learning. But the Government should go even further and close the gap between free provision of childcare and statutory maternity pay.

The CBI report, Delivering Excellence, also recommends:

·       All political parties should commit to maintaining Curriculum for Excellence following the 2016 election

·       Mandatory work experience and careers talks for pupils throughout the 3-18 curriculum

·       Mandatory study of maths and English for all those staying in full-time education or training post 16

·       Evaluating the progress on the Science and Engineering Action Plan and developing a new strategy in partnership with business to reinvigorate the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) agenda in schools

·       The Scottish Qualifications Authority steps up its engagement with businesses to ensure new qualifications are thoroughly understood

·       Prioritising the implementation of the Commission on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce recommendations to ensure the vocational offering in Scotland is world class

·       All political parties should commit to Invest in Youth Groups to support local business placements for teachers.

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