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Government criminalises those who don’t learn

November 6th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I like learning. I am in favour of learning. I am in favour of young people getting the best possible qualifications and opportunities.

But the latest UK government moves to raise the school leaving age to 18 is not helpful. Once more they have confused institutional attendance with learning. Just because a young person is signed up for a regular course does not mean they will learn.

And if they are not attending school or college it does not mean they are not learning.

One of the stated concerns of the government is that the number of jobs for unskilled (their word for not possessing a formal qualification) will fall dramatically in coming years. I am not sure this is right. It is based on the rhetoric of the information society. Is there real evidence this is likely to happen?

But the worst proposal, announced in todays Queen’s speech is the proposal to criminalise those who do not participate. Those who do not stay on in school or work-related training, reports the Guardian, will be served with an “attendance order”, which has been dubbed “the education Asbo”. If they breach this order and refuse to study for a recognised qualification, 16- and 17-year-olds will be guilty of a criminal offence. They will then face a £50 spot fine or a £200 fine in court. But they will not be sent to prison.

So learning or education is something we force people to do at the risk of a large fine (with presumably more sanctions for those unwilling or unable to pay). This provides all the wrong messages.

Instead of forcing young people into a system which is failing so many of them, why not turn the focus on learning opportunities. Instead of a Qualifications Framework why not a Learning Framework. Why not ensure every job, skilled or otherwise, offers rich learning opportunities to everyone and with a choice of learning modes. This would entail a new view of learning – as learning inherent in human activity – rather than being segregated as something which takes place in institutions. And it would entail a new role for work – seeing learning as something as natural to the workplace as working. Ah well – dream on.

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3 Responses to “Government criminalises those who don’t learn”

  1. Ruby says:

    Hi Graham!
    I *think* its not a UK government initiative, as education is different in England & Wales and Scotland … come to Scotland and see the difference! No national curriculum – not 18 leaving age etc etc etc
    vive la difference!

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    Ha – always a difficulty in wording these things and as you will guess from our name we aren’t based in England!

    Meant to say rules only apply to England misses that out. But of course it is the UK government – West Lothian question I suppose! Also hear you are doing great things in Scotland on training of tecahers and trainers -w ould love to know more about this.

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