Loading

Home Page

All Modules

Introducing Sociology

Families and Households

Education

Power and Politics

Differentiation and Stratification

Links

 

Essay: Outline the different approaches used by sociologists to analyse relationships between formal education systems and the economy.

Document last edited:20/10/2015

I have modified this essay to take account of some recent curriculum changes . I have also included an Appendix containing further information and links on current issues in vocational education. This appendix has been extended on 20/01/2011].  Also click here for a very critical view of the current condition of vocational education from Professor Alison Wolfe and here for recent  proposals for vocational education and here for attitudes to vocational education [Links added 07/02/2012]

Also click here for Guardian coverage of CBI criticisms of GCSE [Link added May 23rd 2012]

Click here for BBC item on University Technical Colleges [Link added May 29th 2012]

Click here for a Guardian article on Vocational Education [Link added March 2013]

Click here for BBC item on Vocational Education [Link added March 2013]

Click here for BBC item on Higher Education and the economy [Link added June 2013]

Click here  and here for a BBC items on the CBI and skills training [Links added June -July 2013]

In October 2013 the OECD published a report suggesting that the skills of English and Northern Irish 16-24 year olds were low compared with those of young people in other OECD countries. The following links provide additional information

  1. Click here for Guardian report and here and here for BBC items on recent OECD international comparisons in numeracy and literacy. But also here for a different type of report
  2. Click here and here and here for further Guardian coverage
  3. Click here and follow links to related articles for Independent coverage
  4. Click here for the original OECD [long and detailed] report and for  66 slide presentation of the results

Click here for a detailed paper on Education and Globalisation. A key issue raised is that in countries such as India and China increasing numbers of highly skilled graduates are being educated who nevertheless continue to earn salaries considerably lower than those earned by comparable workers in the "developed world.". We have already seen relatively unskilled jobs relocated to the "third World" leading to fewer unskilled jobs in the developed world. Could it become more economic for transnational companies to relocate professional work also to India and China in which case what will happen to employment prospects in the UK even for graduates?

Click here for a detailed report on Apprenticeships from the House of Commons Education Select Committee March 2015]

Click here for a critical assessment of current apprenticeship schemes from the Independent [August 2015]

Click here for Mr Cameron's comments on new apprenticeships schemes and   Click here  for more critical comment on current apprenticeship schemes reported by the BBC.

Click here for File on 4 report on financial problems within the Further Education sector which has important implications for the delivery of vocational education.

 

Essay Plan

Appendix.......with additions 20/01/2011

In order to analyse the relationships between  formal education systems and the economy we must distinguish between pre-industrial societies where education is provided more informally in families, churches and workplaces and industrial societies where formal education systems expand [as an aspect of structural differentiation ]to meet the needs of industrial economies for more skilled specialised workers. We must also distinguish between the formal academic curriculum and the hidden curriculum which may be defined as the set of norms and values implicitly conveyed to pupils by teachers' words and actions and by the organisational processes operating in schools

Most sociologists would agree that formal education systems fulfil the following functions [most of which are directly related in various ways to the economic organisation of society:

Relationships between formal education systems and the economy may be analysed from Functionalist, New Right, Social Democratic ,Marxist, Interactionist,  and Feminist perspectives

 

Functionalism is based upon a consensus model of society such that industrial societies are seen as basically economically efficient, democratic, and meritocratic and are believed to operate in the interests of all of their citizens. Functionalists believe that formal education systems contribute to economic efficiency and to the  effective functioning of these societies as a whole. Functionalist sociologists such as Talcott Parsons  recognised that relationships between formal education systems and the economy were important for several reasons.

1. As industrial economies become increasingly complex, formal education systems would have to expand to transmit the knowledge and skills necessary for such economies.

2. If economies are to be efficient it is desirable that individuals are allocated to their economic roles on the basis of their own individual merits and Parsons argued that the formal education system in the USA of the 1950s was indeed organised on meritocratic principles and used  complex systems of assessment, schools and colleges to evaluate fairly  the talents, strengths and weaknesses of their students .He further argued that  assessment procedures had a major impact on the employment prospects of young people concerned in that it is educationally successful students who are most likely to be allocated to occupations which are functionally most important and well-paid. Thus formal education systems have an important role to play in the meritocratic allocation of individuals to economic roles which results in greater economic efficiency and higher living standards in the economy as a whole.

3. Talcott Parsons  argued that the core values of US society in the 1950s and 1960s were beliefs in individual achievement and equality of opportunity and that schools played an important role via the hidden curriculum in socialising students to accept these values. In so doing, the US formal educational system is seen as playing a role which is highly beneficial or functional for the US economy as a whole  because:

a. Industry and commerce requires punctual, efficient, achievement -oriented ,industrious workers who identify with the aims of their employers if  an economy is to operate efficiently. [To see that this is so you might like to consider the possible  effects on the USA economy if the entire younger generation had decided to live according to the "hippie" philosophy of the 1960s. Of course this may have made for a more fulfilling life. Who knows? ]
b If formal education systems are based upon and seen to be based upon equality of opportunity the differences in economic rewards which arise from educational success or failure are seen as the outcome of a meritocratically organised educational system such that they are unlikely to be criticised. Thus is social stability maintained.{ This is quite a difficult point which may need a little further discussion in class.}


New Right theorists agree with Functionalists that industrial societies should ideally be organised as capitalist societies and that education systems should operate to meet the needs of capitalism but these New Right theorists also argued in the 1970s and 1980s that in practice state education systems were organised inefficiently and that both their formal and hidden curricula were not geared to meeting the needs of industry. New Right theorists argued therefore in favour of education policies which would enable effective schools to expand at the expense of ineffective schools as a means of improving overall standards, in favour of increased emphasis within the formal curriculum on the transmission of knowledge and skills specifically relevant to the needs of industry and commerce, and against " liberal progressive" social ideas and teaching methods. According to New Right theorists these reforms would enable formal education systems to fulfil their economic functions more effectively.

There have ,however been several criticisms of the New Vocationalism. It has been claimed that a significant divide has been created between academic and vocational courses and that schools in any case are not suited or resourced for the teaching of business- related courses. It is also claimed in relation to training schemes that they aimed to shift the blame for youth unemployment from government policy onto the education system; that training schemes were a means of reducing the official unemployment figures; that little real training was given; that the schemes reinforced traditional gender roles; that the training was at the expense of a more valuable general education and that the purpose of the schemes was often to encourage passivity and acceptance of low wages among young people.

However, supporters of the schemes have argued correctly that some useful training was given which increased the employability of the trainees concerned. Nevertheless, more generally, after 18 years of Conservative government, there were still great concerns that the economic competitiveness of the UK economy was declining because the UK workforce was on average less skilled than the workforces of our major competitors, a problem which subsequent  Labour governments have also failed to solve.

Social Democracy has provided the main theoretical basis for Labour Party policy. Social democrats have traditionally believed that unregulated capitalism would result in inequality of income, wealth and power and the absence of meritocracy but that the reform rather than the abolition of capitalism provides the most realistic basis  for improved average living standards and greater economic equality.

Their critique of capitalism originally led Social Democrats  to propose the expansion of the Welfare State, the use of the taxation system to reduce economic inequality and the nationalisation of major industries although this latter policy has been discarded by Labour under Tony Blair. With regard to Education, Social Democrats argue that increases in government spending on education, education policies targeted especially on disadvantaged children and training policies to improve workers' skills can in principle improve the average educational level in society, reduce social class, gender and ethnic inequalities of educational opportunity and thereby increase educational meritocracy.

Improved education will enable individuals  to live fuller lives  and enhance social justice and economic efficiency as more individuals develop their talents to the full and use them in their working environment. Labour governments since 1997 have emphasised very strongly the important linkages between the expansion and modernisation of the UK education system and the prospects for continuing economic prosperity. Faced with the combined effects of technological change and economic globalisation Labour governments have recognised the necessity for improvements in average educational levels, for increased meritocracy in the interests of both greater fairness and increased economic efficiency and for increasing the relevance of formal educational curricula to the needs of the economy.

Recent Labour Governments have introduced several initiatives designed to increase the economic  relevance of educational curricula .

  1. Students now have the opportunity to study a wide range of vocational GCSEs such as Applied Business Studies, Applied ICT, Applied Science, Engineering, Manufacturing and Health and Social Care.
  2.  GNVQ Foundation and Intermediate courses for Key Stage 4 students were introduced in the 1990s but these were phased out between 2005-2007 and replaced by similar BTEC and OCR National Courses..
  3. The Increased Flexibility Programme was introduced in 2002  and designed to establish partnerships between schools, Further Education Colleges and other providers of work -based learning  which were to improve vocational learning opportunities for 14-16 year olds who would now receive their education partly from schools and partly from a local Further Education College in the hope that they would adopt more positive attitudes to their education and be encouraged to remain in education beyond the age of 16.
  4. It was hoped also that opportunities for work-based training for young people would be increased via the expansion of NVQ qualifications and apprenticeship and advanced apprenticeship schemes.
  5. By the 1990s students aged 16-18 could study  Advanced GNVQ courses with a strong vocational component   but these courses were replaced in 2000 by the Advanced Vocational Certificate in Education which was in turn withdrawn in 2004 and replaced by a number of Applied Advanced GCE courses.
  6. Students aged 16-18 could also follow BTEC courses which were deemed to be of Advanced Level GCE standard.
  7. Two-year  Foundation Degrees which combine vocational and academic elements have been introduced by Universities and Further Education Colleges. They are increasingly popular as is shown in this recent BBC item.
  8. Most recently  a Diploma has been introduced  which can be studied at varying levels by 14-19 year olds and which is by 2011 to be available with 17 possible options each with a strong vocational element. [Construction and Built Environment, IT, Society, Health and Development, Hair and Beauty Studies, Sport and Active Leisure, Humanities, Language, Science etc.]  
  9. You may click here for some detailed data relating to student numbers on BTEC and BTEC National Courses 

In an ideal world these new vocationally based courses would enthuse students to adopt more positive attitudes to education in the recognition that what they are learning would help them to improve significantly their future employment prospects. However many of the criticisms which were applied to the Conservatives' New Vocationalism initiatives are already being applied to these more recent Labour initiatives: there are concerns that schools will encourage only "unacademic" students [for whom traditional GCSEs and Advanced Levels are seen as inappropriate ] to take these courses; that the courses will be perceived similarly by the students themselves; and that Universities may not accept these qualifications as equivalent to traditional Advanced Levels. Thus the academic-vocational divide which has bedevilled the UK education system for years may remain for the foreseeable future . Nevertheless the increasing popularity of Foundation Degree courses may provide hope for the future.

 While some Social democrats are relatively optimistic that standards, equality of opportunity and vocational relevance can all be increased others recognise that it will be no simple matter to achieve the meaningful educational reforms which they seek. It is noteworthy that after 13 successive years of Labour government there are still very significant class inequalities in educational achievement and ongoing concerns that on average the UK labour force is less skilled than the labour forces of our major competitors.

It should be noted that for several years there have been criticisms of the organisation of apprenticeship schemes by both Conservative and Labour governments and the following two links give information on apprenticeship trends and issues under recent Labour , Coalition and Conservative Governments. Students may choose to read the shorter Independent article for a sense of the issues involved but much more detailed information is available [if required] in the Select Committee Report.

Click here for a detailed report on Apprenticeships from the House of Commons Education Select Committee March 2015]

Click here for a critical assessment of current apprenticeship schemes from the Independent [August 2015]

 

 

In the Marxist framework the focus of analysis is not simply on industrial societies but on capitalist industrial societies which are seen as unequal, unjust, cruel and conflictual. In the general Marxist theory, the economic base of society heavily influences the superstructure of society which includes the education system as well as the political system, the mass media, the family etc This Marxist view of education is extended by Bowles and Gintis in Schooling in Capitalist America in which they argue that the socialisation process as operates in schools serves to create an obedient, submissive , fragmented workforce able to come to terms with the alienation for the capitalist depends upon such a workforce for its survival;

With regard to the US education system, Bowles and Gintis claim that its organisation corresponds very closely to the organisation of capitalist production thus preparing students for entry into that system. For example, schools are organised on hierarchical principles of authority and control such that teachers give orders which students are expected to obey. Students have very little influence over the school curriculum; knowledge is fragmented and students have very little opportunity for self-fulfilment in their work.. All of this prepares especially low stream pupils, mainly of working class origin for work which is also hierarchically organised, fragmented, alienating and lacking in intrinsic satisfaction. "Pupils are prepared for their work roles through a close correspondence between the social relationships which govern personal interaction in the workplace and the social relationships of the education system.

Also, Bowles and Gintis argue that schools are especially likely to reward with high grades pupils with personality traits showing subordinacy and discipline and to penalise with low grades pupils with personality traits showing creativity, aggressivity and independence. They claim, therefore that schools reward the personality traits which will be helpful to the capitalist system once school students begin work.

Bowles and Gintis provide a powerful Marxist criticism of formal education but they have been criticised in several respects.

1. They have failed to prove that the Hidden Curriculum serves to create an obedient submissive personality. "The Lads" in Paul Willis’ study were far from being submissive and obedient, for example.

2. They underestimate the significance of the formal curriculum for encouraging open minded analysis and criticism of existing social arrangements.

3. They do not explain why and how education should be organised to meet the oppressive demands of the capitalist system given that individual teachers have absolutely no wish to use education for this purpose.

4. The Marxist analysis of formal education may be investigated further by means of the idea of  the relative autonomy of the education system from the capitalist system. Thus it might be argued that points 1,2 and 3 do indicate the formal education systems do not simply and automatically meet the need of capitalist economies but that nevertheless formal education systems have only limited flexibility [or limited relative autonomy] within which criticism of the capitalist system is possible.

Thus:

even though Willis' "lads" are rebellious within school there is little sign that they are likely to be rebellious in later life within the capitalist system for at the moment they are very keen to accept physically demanding working class jobs within the capitalist system as a means of demonstrating their masculinity;

even if the formal curriculum does provide opportunities for criticism of existing social arrangements very few pupils will leave school with any knowledge or understanding of revolutionary theories of society;

individual teachers may have anti-capitalist views but their autonomy is constrained by the fact that they themselves will be assessed by head teachers, parents and pupils mainly by the examination results which their pupils achieve so that they must gear their teaching very heavily towards examination syllabi and use teaching methods which may promote examination success at the expense of broader understanding.

In summary, therefore, Marxists argue that formal education systems are designed to meet the needs of the capitalist economy and to ensure that the interests and privileged lifestyles of the capitalist ruling class  are sustained while working class children are prepared primarily for employment in low skill, low status, low paid, alienating jobs. It is admitted that some working class students will be successful in education and achieve social mobility but claimed by Marxists that this serves merely as a smokescreen which hides the inequality of opportunity which is central to capitalist educational systems. Furthermore no amount of social democratic educational reform can remove educational and economic injustice which can be removed only by revolution or at least by fundamental socialist reform and reforms of vocational education are likely only to ensure that mainly working class students are directed towards vocational education while  middle and upper class students are directed more to academic education routes.  

It is argued by interactionist theorists such as Hargreaves, Keddie and Ball that by processes of setting, banding and streaming, mainly working class students are labelled as failures. Anti school subcultures may develop in the lower sets, bands or streams  as students seek to regain informal status among their peers having been denied official academic status by the schools. The more experienced teachers may be allocated to higher streams and teachers in general may prepare more carefully for higher stream classes. Consequently self- fulfilling prophecies arise whereby the  definition of working class students as failures helps to ensure that they do indeed fail. Interactionist theorists do not focus heavily on relationships between formal education systems and the economy but their theories may certainly be used to suggest that formal education systems are not organised meritocratically and this conclusion does help to undermine both Functionalist and New Right analyses of relationships between formal education and the economy. Similarly interactionist studies could be used to provide some support for Marxist, Social Democratic and Feminist views.

Whereas Marxists emphasise the extent to which formal education systems are geared to meet the needs of capitalism. Feminists emphasise the extent to which they discriminate against women in the interests of patriarchy or capitalism or both. Thus, it has been persuasively argued that female students have been steered toward the traditional housewife-mother role rather than a career and have been discouraged from some subjects such as Maths, Sciences and Engineering with good career prospects. They may also be indoctrinated with personality traits which restrict their career prospects as well as their chances for personal happiness. Insofar as all of this occurs, women may help to stabilise the capitalist system by performing domestic tasks for little money thus enabling male wages to be lower. Also, they may be part of the secondary labour market or part of the reserve army of labour. However Liberal Feminists have argued that gradual reform of patriarchal and capitalist is possible and they would point to the improvement   in recent years both of female educational achievements and of the employment prospects for well educated women while admitting that further improvements are certainly still necessary for example to improve the educational and career prospects of mainly working class and some ethnic minority females. However Marxist Feminists would argue that working class girls are still discriminated against within the education system and in society more generally while radical Feminists would argue that schools continue to socialise girls to accept traditional notions of femininity which must be also be demonstrated clearly if women wish to make career progress in a patriarchal society

The Coalition Government has introduced a range of education policies which it believes can improve overall education standards and has focused also on what it sees as the need for reform of the provision of vocational education. The Secretary of State for Education  Michael Gove outlined his general approach in September 2010 when he announced the setting up of a review of vocational education for 14-19 year olds to be led by Professor Alison Wolf. Click here for a summary of Mr Gove's views. Thus according to Mr. Gove:

Professor Wolf's Review, published in 2011. reached very similar conclusions. Thus the Review stated that although there were many good apprenticeship schemes there were also many courses which "did not do people any good " and that students on vocational courses should be made to keep up with academic subjects such as Mathematics and English. According to the review between 1/4 and 1/3 of 16-19 year old students were on courses which do not not lead to jobs or training schemes and this view was supported by another expert , Professor Lorna Unwin  who was especially critical of Level 1 and 2 NVQ courses which were deemed equivalent to GCSEs. and who stated that "There are too many people at the lower levels . These courses do not give progression because the qualifications are just not good enough." [Quoted in The Guardian]. Soon  the Coalition Government responded to the Wolf Review in no uncertain terms by removing several thousand vocational qualifications from the school league tables  although it remained abundantly clear that vocational education has a very important role to play within the overall education system. [Click here for and here  and here and here for some further information ]

Click here for Guardian coverage of new government policy on continuing study of Mathematics and English for pupils who have failed to gain GCSE  Grade  C passes in these subjects   

Another important initiative in relation to vocational education has been the setting up of University Technical Colleges under the aegis of the Baker Dearing Trust. It was stated in the Conservative Party General Election Manifesto that  if elected the Conservatives would facilitate the building  of 15 such schools by 2015 but as of April 2013 45 University Technical Schools are either in operation or under construction. 

University Technical Colleges are Academies which are geared to the technicality oriented education of 14-18 year olds. As stated for example on the Norfolk University Technical College Website they aim to offer students "a high status, full-time technically oriented education that blends academic education and hands -on opportunities".  In many cases students will study the 5 current English Baccalaureate subjects along with additional technical/ vocational subjects in their first two years before proceeding to specialise more fully on technical/vocational subjects in their final two years. They are sponsored by universities and their curricula are influenced by local and national businesses  which also guarantee to provide students with relevant work experience. It would appear , therefore, that such college will provide high quality academically based vocationally relevant education which should improve students' employment opportunities and contribute in some measure to long term increases in economic efficiency.

 Teachers unions have argued that students will have to make the decision whether to attend a University Technical College at the early age of 13 and that the effects of this may be to increase the academic -vocational divide although this criticism is rejected by supporters of University Technical Colleges who point out that students will continue to study EBacc subjects and claim that the vocational focus of the colleges actually stimulates interest in academic subjects. Click here for a BBC Q and A on University Technical Colleges and Click here  and Click here  for additional information and   and here for the Website of Norfolk University Technical College  and here for a detailed interview with Lord Baker. 

In October 2013 major new plans have been unveiled for the expansion of University Technical Colleges and and the setting up of Career Colleges. Click here and here and here for Independent coverage of this initiative. Click here for further information from the Independent On Career Colleges . [Link added August 2015: i.e. after Conservative General Election victory]

 The Coalition Government has announced its intention to introduce a Technical Baccalaureate in Vocational Education.    Click here for information on the Technical Baccalaureate from the BBC.

In December 2013 the Coalition  unveiled a new range of A Level standard " Tech Level" qualifications which will be taught from September 2014. Click here for further information from the BBC.

As already mentioned there have for several years  been criticisms of the organisation of apprenticeship schemes by both Conservative and Labour governments and the following two links give information on apprenticeship trends and issues under recent Labour , Coalition and Conservative Governments. Students may choose to read the shorter Independent article for a sense of the issues involved but much more detailed information is available  [if required!] in the Select Committee Report.

Click here for a detailed report on Apprenticeships from the House of Commons Education Select Committee March 2015]

Click here for a critical assessment of current apprenticeship schemes from the Independent [August 2015]

Click here for Mr Cameron's pre-General Election comments on new apprenticeships schemes and   Click here  for more critical comment on current apprenticeship schemes reported by the BBC. [October 2015]

Click here for File on 4 report on financial problems within the Further Education sector which has important implications for the delivery of vocational education. {October 2015]

 

 

 

 

In summary it is clear that there are important linkages between education systems and the economy but these linkages can be analysed from different perspectives. Functionalists claim that educational systems operate to increase economic efficiency so as to benefit all members of society . New Right theorists have argued that Functionalists may have been complacent in their beliefs that education systems were meeting the needs of industry effectively and proposed schemes such as those embodied in the  New Vocationalism to increase the relevance of education to the needs of industry.

Social Democrats argue in favour of the reform of capitalism so that it provides for the more equal distribution of income, wealth , power and opportunity . They reject Marxist theories of revolution and the Functionalist and New Right  claims that formal education systems are already organised meritocratically . Social Democrats   propose several educational reforms to increase meritocracy  and curricular changes to increase industrial and commercial relevance which , they argue , will promote both greater social justice and greater economic efficiency which is essential in the globalised age

More critically, Marxists have argued that formal education systems certainly meet the needs of capitalist economies but that they do so by  preparing mainly working class pupils  for their particular place as low paid workers in an exploitative unjust capitalist industrial system .

 Interactionists have not focussed greatly on relationships between education and the economy but their arguments can be used as part of the explanation why formal education systems are not meritocratic and why therefore they may inhibit social justice and economic efficiency. Finally  feminists argue that even despite recent advances in  overall female educational achievements , many working class girls   and some ethnic minority girls are still relatively unsuccessful in educational terms  which impedes economic efficiency as a whole. There are also significantly different attitudes to relationships between education and the economy as between different kinds of feminists.

The following tables give some indication of the relative quantitative importance of different types of qualifications for students aged 14-16 and 16-19

Examination Qualifications : Percentages of Students achieving 5 or more GCSE A*-C passes [and equivalent qualifications] 2008-09 [Source: Adapted from DCFS]

[Note that within the Maintained Sector [i.e.  the State Sector GCSE  entries for equivalent vocational courses boost state school pass rates significantly but not in the Independent Sector...nor in State Grammar Schools although I have not included the figures here. However interested students may click here and navigate to table 5 for the full original DCFS data]

  GCSE  only inc. short courses GCSE+ Vocational ..GCSEs GCSEs, Vocational .GCSEs +BTEC GCSE + All Equivalents
All Maintained Schools        
Boys 49.6 51.0 58.8 65.8
Girls 59.0 61.3 68.4 73.9
All 54.2 56.1 63.5 69.8
Independent Schools        
Boys 78.0 78.0 78.2 78.9
Girls 86.8 86.9 87.0 87.5
All 82.2 82.3 82.4 83.0

 

Examination Qualifications: Level 3 Achievements of Candidates aged 16-18 by Qualification Route and Gender: Percentages  [Adapted from DCFS]

  Male Female Total
GCE Advanced Level 68.0 70.7 68.5
GCE Applied Advanced Level 3.4 4.5 4.0
International Baccalaureate 0.9 0.9 0.9
BTEC/OCR 24.8 20.0 22.2
NVQ/VRQ   [VRQ: Vocationally Relevant Qualification: Similar to NVQ but no work-based assessment is required ] 2.9 4.0 3.5

 

In recent years the organisation of education and training related to the economy has become increasingly complex. The first two links provide a clear simplified outline of the overall current structures. of education and training.

Link one          Link two     

The next five links provide some information on the new Diplomas first introduced in September 2008

Link one         Link two         Link Three         Link Four           Link Five

  Link Five takes you to the BBC Education site which contains several further items related to the new Diplomas.

And finally, for discussion you might like to click here for the BBC coverage of McDonald's contribution to current British education, See also the link to the right  of the BBC page on the views of the Head of TESCO..

Additions 20/01/2011

In recent years increasing numbers of secondary schools have entered their students for GCSE equivalent vocational courses partly, it has been claimed, in order to stabilise or advance their league table positions although this is certainly not to deny the usefulness of such courses. However in 2010 the new Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition has raised the criterion for satisfactory school performance at GCSE level from 30% of students attaining 5 A*-C GCSE grades  to 35% and has also begun to measure league table performance in terms of the percentages of students achieving A*-C GCSE grades in English, Mathematics, Science, a Modern Foreign Language and either History or Geography. In 2010 only 15.6% of pupils attained A*-C GCSE grades in all 5 of these subjects and in only 603 out of 4215 secondary schools did more than 35% of pupils achieve A*-C GCSE grades in all 5 of these subjects.

Given the future significance of pass rates in these subjects for schools' league table positions one would expect more students to be entered for these subjects and relatively fewer to be entered for vocationally based subjects and for subjects such as R.E, Sociology [!] and Media Studies . It might possibly be argued that this new policy represents a change of direction away from the previously growing emphasis on vocational education although the new government is also planning the development of increasing numbers of technical colleges designed specifically for 14-16 year olds which has led some to claim that we are about to witness a significant impetus toward the development of a two tier education system, a claim which the government denies.

Click here, here, here and here for further information on these important issues         

 

Return to Top