The best education system in the world?

Blog by Ruth Spellman 

As we wait for the release of the review of post-18 education launched by the Prime Minister last February it is interesting to speculate about how far the review will go in addressing the need for access to learning at all stages of life. 

Whilst the UK has a strong reputation for delivering high quality higher education and we have many high quality FE Colleges, at least a third of our adult population do not engage in any form of learning once they leave school, despite many requiring access later in life in order to keep their skills up to date and to participate fully in our society. The sharp fall in the numbers of adults engaging in part time further learning is the exact opposite of the outcome we need in a country facing low growth, productivity challenges and skill shortages.

This is a serious issue with profound economic and social consequences. When you add to this picture the fact that the government spending on adult education and apprenticeships makes up less than 3% of the overall education budget [i.e. £2.3bn out of roughly £90bn] and when more than 70% of the population is over 19 years of age, we must ask ourselves whether the current system of resource allocation is fair or fit for purpose.

In addition, the local infrastructure to deliver skills has been cut back and continues to suffer from inadequate funding. Furthermore, none of us who struggle with these issues on a daily basis would suggest that the solutions to these issues are easy or obvious. But unless we understand and acknowledge the problem we will not make progress. This review, and the democratic majority, deserves an education system which, in the words of the Prime Minister, works for all.