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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: the CBI

Every year, schools get a kicking when the CBI puts out its annual survey of employers' attitudes to education. If it is to be believed, businesses are being wrecked by the arrival of hordes of illiterate and innumerate teenagers.

Teaching is so much worse than in the past, it is suggested, that the poor employers are suddenly being forced to give their staff remedial training in the "basics". Hence this week's headlines: "Employers forced to take the role of schoolteacher", "Teenagers still lack three Rs, say bosses" and so on.

The CBI's study has reached roughly the same conclusions for most of the past decade. Although, in recent years, it has been clear that the remedial classes employers most need to give are not in the three Rs but in ICT.

The proportion of employers dissatisfied with school and college leavers' English skills this year is 35 per cent, and 30 per cent for maths. That may be worrying - but it is down from 42 and 35 per cent, respectively, last year.

The CBI's study notes that the problem "is probably not so much that levels of attainment have declined as that the levels of skill needed tend to escalate with the growing complexity of the workplace". It cannot be blamed for how the press interprets the figures, but perhaps some "remedial classes" on media management would help.

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