The UK has been slipping down the international educational achievement tables for some years and a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that our 16- to 24-year-olds are near the bottom of global league tables in literacy and numeracy. It also revealed that attainment had effectively worsened over the last 40 years, England was the only country in the developed world where adults aged 55-to-65 performed better in literacy and numeracy than those aged 16-to-24.
To turn this situation around we need a fundamental reform of the education system rather that believing that doing more of the same will do. We need to create more diversity in school provision so parents have real choice and no one is forced to send their child to an under-performing school.
Knowing which schools are performing well means a return to a robust and respected exam system, the decline in attainment over the last few decades has mirrored a significant increase in the award of top exam grades. This grade inflation is deeply unfair on the students who cannot understand why their top grades don’t win them places at top universities or impress potential employers.
We also need to recognise that a purely academic educational path isn’t right for every young person and that a well respected, technically excellent vocational training system needs to run in parallel.