Bring back apprenticeships for 14 year olds, new report urges

The government’s fixation on academic exams is betraying young people whose talents lie beyond passing exams, according to the Edge Foundation

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Apprenticeships for 14-year-olds should be reintroduced to help prepare young people for work, a charity has suggested.

According to a new report by the Edge Foundation, published today, the UK education system is failing to prepare young people for 21st-century jobs. The focus on academic qualifications and exam grades is failing to equip young people with the skills employers and the economy need, concludes Our plan for 14-19 Education; Coherent, Unified, Holistic.

 The government should scrap the “pass or fail” exam cliff edge for 16-year-olds and instead create a 14-19 phase with a “broad and balanced curriculum”, according to the report. It should also reintroduce young apprenticeships for 14-year-olds, and make work experience mandatory for all school children. Apprenticeship opportunities should focus on young people, says the report, as in 2015-16, only 131,400 apprenticeship starts were by 16-19-year-olds, compared to 224,100 starts among the over-25 age group. Reintroducing young apprenticeships at 14 would give young people the opportunity to learn in the workplace one day a week, and companies the opportunity to nurture and recruit the best and brightest talent, says the Edge Foundation.  

'Betraying young people'

Edge also advocates investing the £450 million saved from the dismantling of the Connexions careers service directly in schools to provide careers information, advice and guidance. There should also be greater collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and employers to allow students to move between the institutions which will serve them best.

Edge Foundation chief executive Alice Barnard said “The government’s fixation on academic exams is betraying young people whose talents lie beyond passing exams. The wholly academic EBacc leaves no room for students to learn the technical and creative skills they need in our digitised age.  By 2050 we will need more than three million additional skilled workers, but we have no strategy to give young people the skills they need for the real world.”

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