should equip young people with skills for life, reports Young NCB member Tamara
Rainford at this year’s NCB Annual Debate.
For me, something parties should focus on
for the next general election is schools preparing young people for life.
School is seen as the sole provider of education and whilst life skills should
be no exception, schools remain indifferent to incorporating them into their
curriculum as they lie outside the requirement of their factory-like approach which
aims to ship out not rounded students, but high grades and a new rank on the
There are issues with schools having a
predominantly academic focus as often education is nowhere as academic as it
could be. Qualifications are all based on spoon-feeding, memorisation and exam
technique. Whilst they provide young people with the chance to become
hard-working, resilient and competitive – all necessary traits to succeed in
employment – perhaps the focus should be on the material being learnt, young
people’s personal development and their ability to transfer and demonstrate their
knowledge beyond employment. If they don't have the skills to apply their
education then schooling will be little more than pointless.
We hear it time and time again: “Why do I
need to learn this? I'm never going to use it”. If children do not see the
point in what they are learning they are discouraged from performing to the
best of their ability and will either drop the subject concerned, or continue to
study it like a martyr in an unmotivated way.
A simple change in the PSHE Curriculum has
been requested for years, including the introduction of finance skills and
sustainable living, sex and relationships education, cultural awareness,
community cohesion, and a political education involving sensitive and
controversial subjects. This knowledge is something that young people are
expected to pick up along the way yet as the 65% turnout in the 2010 general
election and fail of multiculturalism show, many clearly do not.
“Children are the future” is something we often hear, but children are not the
future forever and investing in the necessary skills to mould them into engaging
and understanding citizens means addressing the lack of life skills learnt
today. This is easily solved in part by OFSTED becoming legally required to
mark schools on a well-rounded PSHE curriculum.
The government could also tackle this
problem by introducing compulsory work experience, extra-curricular activities
and volunteering. These programmes can help young people to confirm their
interests and find out as soon as possible if they are on the right path so
they can then tailor their post-16 education and entry-level employment to
their goal. Involvement with the third sector will also teach young people
about the importance of community and a “big society” rather than just
individualism and wealth-creation alone.
School has even less influence on preparing
children for life when they are from a disadvantaged background. A lack of
parental guidance cannot be rectified unless what is learnt in school and from pastoral
care make up for what they miss out on at home. Something should be done to
ensure schools are providing enough pastoral care.
Overall, there are numerous changes that MPs
can lobby government ministers to make in order to prepare young adults for
life, whether it be transforming the style of academic teaching, incorporating
home economics, PSHE lessons, compulsory work experience and volunteering
programmes into the curriculum, or improving pastoral care.
17-year-old Tamara Rainford, member of Young