The growth of gang involvement and violent crime among schoolchildren is being driven by a school curriculum that alienates half of pupils from learning and fosters in them a lack of self-confidence and respect.
That’s the view of Lib Dem education spokesperson Baroness Garden, a former teacher who served in the ministerial team of former Conservative education secretary Michael Gove.
She said: “As a party, we are very concerned that the current highly academic curriculum is really disadvantageous to some 50 per cent of youngsters who won’t go to university and whose careers will take them into vocational workplace routes.”
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The deputy speaker of the House of Lords, who is a former French teacher, was speaking on an "election special" panel at the Schools and Academies Show, in Birmingham, where she said there was a need in schools for subjects like car maintenance, construction, caring and catering.
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As a former consultant with The City and Guilds of London Institute, she said she used to visit schools and see pupils “blossoming” in vocational subjects that have now disappeared from the curriculum.
She said: “I saw pupils who I knew would have been absolutely lost in my French lessons but they were totally engaged in car maintenance and catering and caring and you could see them blossoming because they were doing something they really cared about.
“And the icing on the cake was that they got a national certificate at the end of it. These were kids who were no way going to get GCSEs but actually they were being nationally recognised.”
She added: “It appears that the government never really makes the connection between the growth in gangs and violent crimes among youngsters and the fact that their compulsory education has left them alienated from learning and with a lack of self-confidence and self-respect because what they have to do at school simply doesn’t fit their skills set.”
She also said vocational education could help to solve mental health issues among pupils.