Staff asked to convey new realism
Schools must provide teenagers with a new form of "political education" that prepares them for the possibility of life on the dole, the chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee said last week.
Christopher Price MP told a conference organised by the Centre for Comprehensive Studies at the University of York that teachers should convey to their pupils - starting with 13-year-olds - a new realism in the face of long-term unemployment and a dwindling pool of jobs.
They should abandon the ivory-tower approach, Mr Price said, which aimed to give children a "beautiful time" at school but denied them any inkling of what was happening in the world outside until a "week or two before they left".
The teacher's job was to make clear to pupils exactly what their chances were in the job market. If they had the ability they should be encouraged to climb the academic ladder, but it was wrong to think it was the only path to fulfilment. Other ways, involving training and work experience, were opening up. And the prospect of some time on the dole need not be regarded as a disaster.
"We need an attitude of trusting kids to pace themselves through adolescence," Mr Price said. "I call this political education - 13-year-olds can handle far more than their teachers give them credit for."
He said that the declining job market would inevitably mean that children would spend more time in education and training. And there would be more opportunity for them to come back to school for further education. This would lessen the stranglehold of exams.
"This will take the tension out of English education, which has been there since the 1870s. The whole emphasis has been on doing things as quickly as possible," he said. "If we can keep further and higher education reasonably open, getting rid of the absurd rules about grants, we can have a more relaxed education system."