The country’s largest teaching union has welcomed a new report from the Confederation of British Industry on education.
The report calls for “a radical shake up of schools from nursery to sixth form to ensure all young people achieve their potential”.
The CBI warns the education system fosters a cult of the average; too often failing to stretch the most able or support those that need most help.
The report claims that raising educational attainment to the levels of the best in Europe could boost GDP by more than £8 trillion over the lifetime of a child born today, the equivalent of one percentage point a year on growth.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said the coalition Government’s policy of “cutting education funding and denigrating the professionalism of teachers is out of step with what business leaders are saying”.
“The CBI report has recognised the important link between high-quality education systems and economic competitiveness,” she said.
“This report highlights the need for stronger investment in schools and for the professionalism of teachers to be recognised and supported.
“The CBI is right to call for a move away from the damaging system of crude performance tables which provide perverse incentives, narrows the curriculum and denies parents and the public access to quality information on schools’ strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for development.”
The report sets out measures to change what the CBI calls “this conveyor belt of low performance”.
They include giving more freedom to teachers; moving the focus from league tables to delivering a more rounded education; a shift from GCSEs to make 18 the focus of secondary education; and introducing vocational A-levels with the same standing as traditional A-levels.
John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:
“Getting the next generation on the escalator to achieve their potential is one of the most exciting challenges we face.
“Businesses have traditionally focused on education at 14 plus, but it’s clear we need to tackle problems earlier, instead of applying a sticking plaster later on.
“We have some great teachers and average grades are rising, but we’ve been kidding ourselves about overall standards.
“By teaching to the test, too many young people’s individual needs are not being met, and they are being failed by the system.
“Government reforms are heading in the right direction, but are not sufficient on their own and must go further and faster. As well as academic rigour, we need schools to produce rounded and grounded young people who have the skills and behaviours that businesses want.”
Between 2000 and 2009, the UK slipped from 4th to 16th in science, from 8th to 28th in maths and from 7th to 25th in reading in international league tables.
Ms Keates said:
“The CBI is right to confirm the importance of qualified teacher status (QTS) for the delivery of quality education for pre-school children,” she said.
“This should be a right for all children regardless of their age.
“The Government’s attempts to dumb down teaching by abolishing the requirement for all children to be taught by a teacher with QTS will be bad for children and young people in education and bad for the economy.
“The CBI is also right to recognise the importance of parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications, something which the Secretary of State’s proposed English Baccalaureate fails to do.”