Schools 'failing to prepare' students for workplace

Donald MacLeod
Monday June 13, 2005

Nearly half of working people in their 20s said their education had not prepared them well enough for their first job, according to a poll by the schools inspectorate, Ofsted.

Ofsted's poll found that 53% of working adults aged between 20 and 30 said they were well-prepared for their first job, while 45% said they were not. Three fifths (60%) of interviewees said they were well-prepared for work in general - and less than two fifths felt they were not.

Two thirds of those polled felt more could have been done to prepare them for the world of work, with 23% suggesting they would have benefited from more work experience and 8% believing that more vocational training would have been useful.

While around 80% of those polled felt that their education provided them with good numeracy and literacy skills, nearly 50% thought their education did not put enough emphasis on attention to detail, meeting deadlines and team working.

Those interviewed were more positive about their preparation for general working life and graduates were more positive than those who had left education between 16 and 21.

Ofsted said today that the survey showed young people believed employers had a strong part to play in developing the skills needed for a job. They felt their education equipped them well in basic literacy skills but not well enough in areas such as problem solving.

Ofsted's director of corporate services, Robert Green, said today: "Businesses need employees with a 'can-do' attitude, a willingness to take on responsibility, a creative and innovative approach to solving problems and the ability to cope with uncertainty. The question is how do we ensure young people develop these skills?"

Attempts to give 14 to 16-year olds more vocational courses in colleges and work-based training have proved very popular but have been plagued with truancy as teenagers move between schools, colleges and companies, reported Ofsted, in its first full report on the government's increased flexibility programme (IFP), which has been trialled for two years.

"Attendance in the lessons observed on out-of-school programmes has declined over the two years and is well below that in secondary schools as a whole, the report said.

"Attendance varies, depending on the provider: the worst attendance rate being at colleges, where it has fallen to only 68%. However, this figure includes days missed due to activities back at school, such as mock GCSE examinations, about which colleges have not been notified in advance," reported Ofsted.

Overall attendance on the trial schemes had fallen from 87% to 75%, the report said.

However the programme has led to more young people continuing in education, according to Ofsted - encouraging news for the government, which wants to extend the scheme throughout England to offer vocational education to young people who are turned off by academic GCSEs and A-levels.

Schools are criticised in the report for not sharing information with colleges and business partners and for failing to monitor the progress of pupils on programmes outside the school.

In the second year of the programme a large number of colleges were reaching capacity in several vocational areas and had to restrict the places available to 14 to 16-year-old learners. This was particularly the case in motor vehicle, hair and beauty, and construction, all of which were very popular, said Ofsted.

The report added: "Links between schools and employers have been enhanced as a result of IFPs. However, schools could do far more to prepare students for work experience and make better links between their experiences on placements and their studies at school."