IN AN unusual move, the Scottish Executive is to send summaries of HMI's report on Education for Work to every employer in Scotland. The costly initiative to promote the report in the business community is an earnest of the Government's determination to make "employability" a key test of school effectiveness.
Henry McLeish, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, made it clear at the report's launch at the BP Amoco complex in Grangemouth last week that he expected more businesses to become involved with enterprise and work experience projects.
While Mr McLeish praised the fact that 70 per cent of schools now take part in enterprise projects, he added: "Seventy per cent is not 100 per cent."
The report provided "genuine good news about schools in Scotland", Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector, said at the launch. It recommends there should be "core experiences" in an education-for-work programme, ranging from key literacy and numeracy skills to building up the personal qualities necessary to get a job. Along with work experience and enterprise activities, these should be a basic entitlement" for all pupils.
Education for work has moved steadily up the agenda since it was first highlighted under the previous Conservative government by Mr Osler in a keynote speech in November 1996. After Labour came to power, Brian Wilson, the then education minister, went so far as to urge that enterprise education should be "at the heart of the curriculum".
Mr Osler's 1996 speech did not refer to "social inclusion" but his preoccupation with the importance of "relevance" and "purpose" in education, particularly for those turned off by schooling, pointed in that direction.
The report states: "The emphasis needs to move from regarding any links between employers and schools as automatically good in themselves towards an increased focus on the quality of provision and the expected benefits for pupils' learning."
Mr Osler rejected charges that education for work undermined "education for education's sake". He commented: "The primary teacher who gets pupils to read at an early stage is making a major contribution to the employability of these pupils."