Is the UK education system effective?

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It’s A-Level results week – a time when futures are decided on the opening of an envelope. With Education Secretary Michael Gove’s reforms also around the corner, Lily Howes asks three AAT members what changes they would like to see to the UK education system

Jenni Bickerdyke MAAT: the focus should be on happiness

Children learn in different ways – some are academic, others are vocational, others are creative. I don’t think the structure of our education system caters for that.

It lets kids and our society down by not teaching young people crucial life skills. People aren’t learning how to manage their money and I’m sure this contributes to how much debt people are in. I’ve heard stories of 18-year-olds maxing out credit cards at their first opportunity with no understanding of finances in the real world.

This is no criticism of teaching staff, who often find themselves restricted by a rigid curriculum and over-regulation.

There needs to be a boost in independent thinking and more emphasis on the importance of being happy, not successful in both the academic and financial senses of the word.

Happiness is not dependent on either of those, and is far more important.

Henry Cooper FMAAT: we need to go back to basics

I think we need to go back to the basics: reading, writing and numeracy.

Forget complicated mathematics – children need to have more of a grasp of the foundations of numeracy and arithmetic and have confidence using it in the real world.

The end goal should be getting young people prepared for work so why isn’t there more apprenticeship and entrepreneurial learning? Practical skills are essential and leave children feeling far more equipped than hypothetical problem-solving.

Simple things should be covered such as understanding their first pay slip but additionally, with the huge increase in self-employment, we should be inspiring young people to use their initiative and go out on their own.

Exams have their place but don’t always get the best out of pupils and shouldn’t be the only indicator of progress and success.

Dawn Clarkson FMAAT: more focus needed on communication and interaction

Some of the most exceptional and successful clients I have come across in my career are ones that would have, no doubt, been labelled ‘unconventional’ at school.

From those with learning difficulties to individuals with non-academic minds, if children don’t fit into traditional categories then school can be a very challenging time for them. This is where, I think, our education system fails.

Some students respond well to the examination process, but creativity cannot be measured and this is where many others thrive. There needs to be an added vocational stream that caters to the strengths of those who aren’t destined to follow an academic path.

I also think there needs to be more mainstream focus on communication and interaction with others. Developing interpersonal skills will be a huge advantage to all young people – whatever route they decide to take.


Lily Howes is a freelance journalist and content editor.

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