Children’s University points the way towards a brighter future

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 15th, Jun

This week I was invited to speak to and present primary school pupils with certificates for completing their Children’s University passport. The 'Passport to Learning Scheme' rewards after-school club participation and is designed to help prepare youngsters for secondary school and the opportunities beyond.

Listening to the children talk about their passion for sports, drama, dance, music – and one young man’s assertion that he “works hard, plays hard” (aged 11!) – it demonstrated how the excellence of our primary schools can inspire so many opportunities to create our next generation of working citizens with the skills and talent that we want and need within our society.

Our curriculum at secondary school has become increasingly focussed upon the traditional academic subjects and a ‘results at all costs’ mentality which has permeated education for the past 20 years. Yet we see an ever-increasing challenge of mental health and wellbeing in young people, at least partially stimulated by an inability to adapt to such a dogmatic system that fails to adequately reward or recognise talent in some of the more creative or technical subjects. We have some outstanding secondary schools in our city region but the pressures applied to them frequently result in students’ personal development and employability talent to be subjugated in the pursuit of exam results.

Careers advice and guidance is fragmented and disjointed, lacking resources to genuinely enable all school pupils to be prepared for, and guided into, the available opportunities. The ONS data released this week for 2017 demonstrated that 11.3% of our City Region population (108,000 people) had no qualifications against a rate of 7.7% in Great Britain. Our unemployment rate was 4.9% against a 4.4% Great Britain rate. It’s not good enough and needs adequate resources, funding and coordination for schools to tackle the problem.

On 20th July, we will deliver our latest economic business breakfast and will welcome representatives from the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships to enable the voice of business to be articulated and engaged about the impending changes and reforms to vocational and technical education and apprenticeships. 

For those businesses who seek to recruit or train people through apprenticeships, it is essential that you engage with this session and provide the ‘on the ground’ evidence and experience. The introduction of T-Levels, the development of further apprenticeship standards and continued deployment of the Apprenticeship Levy are all issues that our businesses will be experiencing every day and we want Chamber member businesses to fully engage with our guests at the breakfast to bridge the gap between policy-making and reality.

The apprenticeship system is a very real and tangible output from the school system. Both have their flaws and it is imperative that our businesses can influence our policy makers with insight, experience and credibility.

Children’s University provided a snapshot of some young people with dreams, ambitions and excitement for the future. We cannot allow our education system to fail them and as businesses, must contribute our resources to ensure that our requirements are met in the development of future talent at school and within our apprenticeship and technical education system.

* Children’s University is a national scheme operated in Sefton Borough Council by Sefton EBP with graduation ceremonies taking place at Edge Hill University.

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