By Daniel Hunter

The CBI said today (Wednesday) that progress on the reform of schools over the last year had been positive but had not gone far enough.

One year on from the CBI’s major report, First Steps — a new approach to our schools — the UK’s leading business organisation has produced its end of year assessment. In a speech to the Whole Education annual conference, CBI Director-General, John Cridland said: “The Government is headed in the right direction on ensuring that there is more rigour in the education system, but business needs more than this.

“We need young people who are rigorous, but also rounded and grounded, and possess characteristics like determination, optimism and emotional intelligence which they need for working life.

“Too many young people are failed by a system which is primarily focussed on getting them through exams rather than nurturing and developing the whole person.

“In the last year, Government has freed up the system, moving away from traditional league tables, and proposing more inclusive technical qualifications. And this is helpful.

“But we still need a whole education system which ensures all our young people develop to their full potential, and this requires changes to the way schools are empowered, judged and governed.

“I would like to see Ofsted run broader assessments of school performance moving away from metric-only judgments towards a more rounded assessment of pupils through more narrative reporting. And we should be investing in school governance - backing Governors, training and supporting them better to challenge school leaders supportively, in the manner of the board of a company.”

The CBI has produced an end of year progress report measuring against the five key proposals in its First Steps report, rating the Government on the success of its reform programme.

On developing a clear statement of the outcomes that all schools should deliver, the CBI marked the Government’s performance as a D.

John Cridland said:“While the system is delivering rigour, it often fails to foster and nurture the development in young people of the wider behaviours and attitudes they need to get on in life. The current accountability and inspection framework has created perverse incentives and needs to change.

On empowering school leaders and teachers, the CBI marked the Government’s performance as a B: “There has been a genuine determination from the Government to decentralise and pass power down to those on the ground with the rolling out of new free schools and academies. But it must step in to champion the role of Governors and ensure governing bodies are far more effective.

On closing the attainment gap at primary level, the CBI marked the Government’s performance as a C+ : “The curriculum reforms should help drive up standards if teachers feel free to innovate, but to make lasting progress we need changes to our accountability frameworks and a wider inspection remit for Ofsted.

On aligning the curriculum and examination at secondary level with the desired outcomes, the CBI marked the Government’s performance as a C+ :
“The changes to GCSEs and the greater focus on Maths and English will raise confidence in the system, but going forward I question the value of high stakes exams at 16, as the compulsory leaving age rises to 18. And there is still an automatic assumption that a three year degree is the best route for all young people, when we should be delivering gold-standard vocational ‘A levels’ as a viable and rewarding alternative.

On encouraging business engagement, the CBI marked the Government’s performance as a B- : “The Prime Minister was right to encourage businesses to do more at the CBI conference and firms are stepping up. But more could be done by companies and also Government to spur on school leaders to reach out to firms in their community. Ministers should restore the requirement for schools to offer work-related learning at Key Stage 4. Pupils also need better careers inspiration which is becoming increasingly hard to come by.”

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness