Any job which doesn't require GCSEs A*-C English and Maths isn't a "decent job", DfE confirms

Janet Downs's picture

Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks a "decent job" is one requiring GCSEs A*-C in Maths and English, according to the Department for Education (DfE), a Freedom of Information (FoI) response reveals.

But the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said Level One (GCSE D-G) gains access to basic employment.

The DfE response implies Gove doesn’t think such basic employment – work such as catering, cleaning, retailing, basic caring – is a decent job.

According to the DfE, 3.3 million left school without A*-C in Maths and English from 2002 to 2011 (inclusive).  And this reduces their opportunities.  That’s correct – lacking these qualifications is a limiting factor but it does not bar entry to the basic jobs described above.  While it’s true the number of jobs requiring only Level One is falling, two areas buck this trend: customer service and basic administration.

The CBI, according to the DfE, values literacy and numeracy highly.  That’s hardly surprising. The DfE cited the CBI’s 2013 Report:

“Just under a third of employers responding said they were dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ basic literacy and numeracy (32% and 31% respectively). Almost half of firms (48%) said they laid on basic remedial training for employees, up from 42% last year.”

Turn these figures round and they show the majority of employers are not dissatisfied.  Employers’ satisfaction with school leavers’ basic literacy rose from 65% in 2012 to 68% this year according to the quoted report although satisfaction with numeracy skills fell from 70% to 69%.

The “basic remedial training” figure quoted by the DfE was for adult employees.  The actual CBI figure for school leavers was “a third (35%) for at least some young people”.  The breakdown is:

15% provided training in Literacy/use of English;

14% provided remedial lessons in numeracy;

13% provided remedial training in IT.

These figures show a fall in the number of employers providing remedial training to school/college leavers since 2012.

It’s unclear how the CBI arrived at a figure of 35% of employers providing remedial training for “some young people”.  But there are commentators who think 42% of employers do so.  This figure is arrived at by adding up the figures in the table above.

But if the figures are turned round the table looks like this:

85% did not provide training in Literacy/use of English

86% did not provide remedial lessons in numeracy

87% did not provide remedial training in IT.

If we total these numbers we find 258% of employers provided no remedial education.  This is nonsense.  And it’s equally nonsensical to add up the breakdown to say 42% of employers give remedial lessons to school leavers.

The DfE has not shown “millions” have left school in the decade up to 2011 without the basics.  This figure can only be justified by downgrading GCSE Cs in Maths and English to a “basic” level of function when the ONS makes it quite clear this level is GCSE  D-G.

I calculate about 338,000 school leavers left school without GCSEs D-G in Maths and English in these ten years.  This is a long way from "millions".  My calculations are here (see my comment 22/11/13 at 9.45).


Note: It appears that much of the DfE response was lifted from a DfE press release dated 10 October 2013 provided by schools minister David Laws.

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