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Boys must keep using their heads

Julia Dowd Director of Learner Support, Learning and Skills Council, Coventry

I would like to respond to recent coverage in The TES about research by Naomi Breen of Manchester university which suggests that it would be beneficial for young white working-class males to drop out of learning at 14. Other recent research shows that many adults regret not making the most of the opportunities they were given during compulsory education, and the figure is higher among men.

More than one in three men (35 per cent) wish they had achieved better qualifications when they were younger, as opposed to 27 per cent of women.

Similarly, 31 per cent of men do not feel they made the most of the opportunities they were given.

It has been suggested that employment may be a better option for young people who struggle at school, but those who are able to find work without any qualifications are often likely to be stuck in dead-end jobs with few prospects. The UK is moving towards being a skills-based society, so those jobs are decreasing in number, making it even more essential that all young people, whatever their background, leave education with the right skills and experience for employment.

The benefits of getting qualifications are apparent to those who may have originally dropped out of learning. Men who have returned to learning found that it improved their employability and more than one in five (21 per cent) said it resulted in a pay rise.

While the goal must be for everyone to achieve their learning potential, there is no set learning route that is suitable for everybody. Staying on in education does not have to mean studying traditional academic subjects at a traditional school sixth-form. The most important thing is to ensure that we harness the potential of our young people - for their benefit and for society as a whole.

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