‘Narrowing’ of the curriculum is leading to a ‘massive skills shortage’, former education secretary claims

Technical subjects have been ‘thrust out of schools’ in favour of the academic, says Lord Baker

Lord Baker, who brought in the national curriculum in England in the 1980s, has said the UK is facing a “massive skills shortage” with companies being forced to look overseas for skilled workers.

He told peers that youngsters who did not go to university got a “very raw deal” at a time when companies needed more technicians and engineers.

“I don’t support the present policy of the government in narrowing the curriculum and focusing on academic subjects,” he said.

Most technical subjects had now been “thrust out of schools” leaving a “whole host of youngsters at 16 with no practical experience of anything technical”, Lord Baker added.

He said this was “unique in the world and highly damaging”, arguing that technical subjects should be reintroduced.

A new generation of polytechnics

Last year, TES reported research showing that three-quarters of parents believe children should have the option of a combined academic and technical education at the age of 14.

Lord Baker, a champion of university technical colleges, was speaking in a debate on the case for a new generation of polytechnics to tackle the skills gap.

He said polytechnics could prepare people for professional and technical jobs but should not be limited to science, technology, engineering and maths, also including subjects like catering and hospitality, graphic design and business studies.

The government has set up a review of technical education led by Lord Sainsbury and its report will be published alongside the government’s response.

Baroness Evans said there needed to be a rebalancing of the system to ensure that young people had the right level of technical provision to enable them to find work.

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