'One size fits all' system is letting pupils down, Ofsted chief warns

The ‘one size fits all’ secondary education system is letting down pupils who are less academic, according to Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw.

In a speech at the CentreForum education think tank, Wilshaw is expected to say that the current system does not get less academic pupils ready for the world of work and a lack of high calibre vocational training is to blame for the UK’s record on youth unemployment.

Wilshaw’s comments will go against the government’s new educational focus on academic subjects. Pupils now have to study English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography until the age of 16, but Wilshaw will claim that some youngsters are more suited for a vocational career.

Although acknowledging the need for strong, core academic curriculum, Wilshaw will argue that England is neglecting its less academic pupils at its own peril and will call for a more ‘inclusive’ system that does not leave behind students who fail to attain targets.

He is expected to say: “The country cannot continue to fail half its future. The great comprehensive school headteacher knows that a ‘one size fits all’ model of secondary education will never deliver the range of success that their youngsters need. Some of our international competitors understand this probably better than we do.

“Their education systems are more flexible than ours and are much more geared to aligning the potential of the student with the needs of their economies. As a result, countries with excellent academic and technical routes have far lower youth unemployment than we do.”

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