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Small businesses voice fears over school-leavers

Eight in 10 firms are concerned that school-leavers are not prepared for the world of work, and concern about young people's literacy and numeracy skills is widespread, according to a poll. The survey of almost 3,000 companies, carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), found that 81 per cent of respondents were not confident that school-leavers were ready for work. Nearly six out of 10 (59 per cent) said they rated school-leavers' literacy skills as poor or very poor, while more than half (55 per cent) said the same about their numeracy skills. "Businesses are more than ready to invest time and money training staff in job-related skills, but expect them to come with at least the basics," said John Walker, national chairman of the FSB. "It is a concern that businesses have again highlighted numeracy, literacy and core workplace skills, such as communication, as major problems."

See cover feature, pages 26-30

The dark side of national pay scales

National pay scales for teachers have a damaging impact on school standards and pupil achievement, a study released this week suggests. Schools in affluent areas struggle to recruit and retain high-quality staff, according to researchers from the University of Bristol. In areas where private sector salaries significantly outstrip teachers' wages, pupils can drop up to one GCSE grade in one subject, the academics said. The study follows the launch of a government consultation on whether to scrap national pay scales for teachers - a move that is vehemently opposed by teaching unions.

More Neets on the streets

The number of teenagers who are not in education, employment or training (Neet) has risen over the past year, according to new figures. The latest official data show that 191,000 young people aged between 16 and 18 were considered Neet in the three months up to June, up from 186,000 at the same point last year. Figures for Neet 16- to 24-year-olds have fallen slightly over the past 12 months. The government said it was investing in education, training and apprenticeships to tackle the issue, but Labour said ministers were allowing "the talents of too many young people to go to waste".

Ofsted finds that disabled children are at risk

Disabled children are at risk of not being properly protected from neglect and abuse, Ofsted inspectors have warned in a new report. Schools, social services and health professionals must do more to ensure that children do not slip through the net, according to inspectors. The report, which is based on a survey of 12 local councils, found that disabled children were less likely to be the subject of child-safety plans. "Research suggests that disabled children, sadly, are more likely to be abused than children without disabilities," said Ofsted deputy chief inspector John Goldup. "We cannot accept a lower standard of care and protection for disabled children than we expect for all our children."

Looked-after children fail to thrive in Wales

Many looked-after children in Wales are still not achieving their full educational potential, according to a report by the Wales Audit Office. Despite more than a decade of policies, guidance and funding for children in state care from the Welsh government, there is still too much variation in educational attainment, inconsistent support and a lack of clear outcomes to measure progress, the report says. Charity Barnardo's Cymru said there was no reason why looked-after children should not do as well at school as other children.

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