Harlow MP Robert Halfon co-signs letter saying education system is “not fit for 21st century”
Education: Secondary / Sun 10th Jan 2021 am31 11:58am
EDUCATION SYSTEM NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE
HARLOW MP Robert Halfon is a co-signatory to a letter saying our current education system is not “fit for purpose”.
The letter was published in The Sunday Times
ONE of the biggest challenges facing our nation is the creation of an education system that nurtures talent and creates opportunity for everyone. However, debate about reform often focuses on two opposites — knowledge and skills. This is a false divide. Knowledge is only relevant alongside the skills to interpret it; skills are only useful when there is knowledge to draw on.
Our current system is not fit for the 21st century. Social mobility continues to decline, and even before the pandemic we faced significant skills gaps: by 2024, there will be an estimated shortfall of four million skilled workers. Now Covid-19 has wreaked further damage, with millions of children missing lessons.
Too much technology in schools has been out of date for 10 years. Worse still, teachers are not sufficiently incentivised to integrate it into their practice. The UK is 31% behind the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average in this respect.
Urgent change is essential. This starts with the scrapping of GCSEs. In their place we need a broad baccalaureate, incorporating academic and vocational education at age 18.
Second, the factory model — where each pupil advances at the same pace in every subject, regardless of ability and interest — must be swept away for ever. Instead, we should enable personalised education through the use of new technology.
Third, we need a radical re- engineering of the classroom. The effective use of technology, including AI, can provide seamless learning between school and home.
Clearly, the growth of AI and robotics will have a profound impact. So, fourth, we need a special royal commission on education, AI and exam reform that would include experts and report within nine months. It is essential we understand and prepare the nation for the impending changes in our economy and society.
Robert Halfon MP; David Davis MP; Sir Anthony Seldon; Priya Lakhani; Professor Rose Luckin; Geoff Barton, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders; Damian Green MP; Flick Drummond MP; Mark Pawsey MP; Christian Wakeford MP; Lord Baker; Lord Puttnam; Lord Knight; Lord Clement-Jones; Professor Julia Buckingham, vice-chancellor and president, Brunel University London; Professor Mary Stuart, vice-chancellor, University of Lincoln; Professor Steven West, vice-chancellor and president, University of the West of England Bristol; Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, economist and principal, University of Glasgow; Sir Michael Barber, educationalist; Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, head of School of Innovation, Open University; Sherry Coutu, chairwoman, The Scale Up Institute, entrepreneur, investor; Timno Hannay, managing director, School Dash Limited; Bob Harrison, chairman of governors, the Northern College; Tom Hooper, founder, Third Space Learning; Nick Kind, senior director, Tyton Partners; Luke Johnson, entrepreneur; Margaret McCabe, chief executive, DebateMate; Alistair McConville, director of learning and innovation, Bedales School; Deirdre Medler, director of initial teacher education, University of East Anglia; Professor Simon Thompson, head of education, University of Sussex; Professor Chris Wilkins, head of school of education, University of Leicester
It is very pleasing to see these issues have reached the top of the agenda and that such a group of Changemakers lead by Robert Halfon, our MP, have recognised the potential to take advantage of the best of ed tec and AI to create needs to be, an Open access and lifelong learning education system. As many educators and people from schools, universities and industry have already identified, change needs to happen, a change as significant as the invention of the printing press and the time is now. COVID has exposed the weaknesses of a system that has run on a Victorian factory batch production model that has shackled students and teachers alike. We have the means to create a system that is not only far better at tailoring learning to the needs of individual students but of making teaching, testing, assessment and examining more efficient and effective. To begin we need to create the schools equivalent of The Open University ( with all that implies): The creation, The Open School, would work with schools and teachers to engage students and deliver courses and resources online and to facilitate blended learning as a new normal. Such an organisation would be ideally placed to step up in lockdown during this and any future pandemic. There is a great shortage of youth provision, sports and clubs, so hand in hand with this we need to ensure all schools become true community schools to employ youth and community workers through the day and into the evening. The mix of community youth activities with blended learning would herald a new way of working through the day that not only would improve learning but help schools fulfill their child minding functions and enable parents to work. Equally we need to create The Open College to serve FE and to recreate The Open University with local centres where there is access to all uk courses. We do need to break the assumption that a student needs to move from home and incur eye watering accommodation costs and debt to access any particular course. As COVID has exposed many HE courses can be done online. If we add local centres and the Summer Schools concept to the mix then we not only break this "finishing school " aspect of HE we enhance the idea of lifelong learning and make courses and learning more accessible to all and especially to the disadvantaged or mature students who are holding down a job and have family responsibilities. Fortunately Robert Halfon is ideally placed as Chair of the Education Select Committee in Parliament to help deliver this seminal change in the English education system. Robert needs to know there is already a significant number of MPs from across the house, distinguished educators from schools, universities, Livery Companies and institutes like the IET, already onboard ready and willing to help deliver this paradigm change.