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Government's productivity plan neglects basic skills, MPs told

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The government's plan to boost productivity fails to adequately recognise the importance of basic skills, according to a panel of experts from the further education and business communities.

This morning, the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee heard that the government's plan fails to systematically explain how productivity can increase in line with levels of literacy and numeracy.

The plan, published in July, sets out how the government aims to improve productivity by promoting an “enterprising economy”. It argues that a professional and technical education system should provide students with “clear, high-quality routes to employment”.

Harvey Young, chair of the National Consortium of Colleges and Providers, told the committee: "Basic skills underpin everything. If we don’t get that right we may as well be building on quicksand."

Richard Brook, president of the Association for Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations, said that the government proposals lacked "sufficient radical innovation", adding: "Bad grammar, spelling mistakes – that erodes confidence. There is certainly an issue with basic skills."

On Thursday, Ofsted will publish a report on apprenticeships, in which it will argue that the rapid growth of the programme has diluted quality. The watchdog will argue that many of the apprenticeships on offer "are failing to give learners the skills and knowledge employers are looking for, or add value to the economy", and are simply "being used as a means of accrediting existing low-level skills, like making coffee and cleaning floors".

In a speech to launch the report at the CBI West Midlands Education and Skills Conference, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is expected to say that, despite the increase in numbers, very few apprenticeships are delivering professional-level skills in the sectors that need them most.

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