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Secondary Education

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of (a) generic skills and (b) specialist learning in 14 to 19 secondary education. [98909]

(a) Generic skillsOur recent statement '14–19: opportunity and excellence' set out our vision for a 14–19 phase where all young people can choose from a range of courses and qualifications covering a wide range of general and specialist subjects and skills. Our statement specifically included the following measures on generic skills.To help ensure that all young people are well equipped in literacy, numeracy and computer skills we will introduce (from 2004–05 onwards) an entitlement for them to continue studying up to age 19 until they reach the standard of a good GCSE or the corresponding Level 2 key skill qualification. Those going on to higher education or professional study after 19 should be encouraged to achieve a Level 3 qualification in at least one of these skill areas.We will invite the 14–19 working group, chaired by Mike Tomlinson, to look at how young people can develop the essential practical skills for life, and how the content of individual subjects and programmes could place a greater emphasis on analysis, problem solving and thinking skills, as well as the presentation and argument of conclusions. Practical and analytical skills are equally essential in adult life and in the workplace. Existing programme and subject requirements do not always sufficiently emphasise these skills.In addition, "Skills for Life", the Government's strategy for improving adults' literacy and numeracy skills, identifies young adults as a priority group. We are determined to bring young people who leave school with poor literacy, language and numeracy skills back into learning. These skills are important prerequisites for young adults to find and keep work and overcome potential barriers to participating fully in society.

(b) Specialist learning

We have also asked the 14–19 working group to consider the appropriate balance between specialist and general skills in learning programmes for this age group. At present, we believe that for many young people who follow an academic path, particularly at ages 16–18, the range of studies is too specialised and narrow when compared with advanced level students in other countries. We want young people to be able to combine a broad range of studies with more specialist choices that meet their own individual interests and aspirations.