19th October 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
A-levels system no longer 'fit for purpose', says Royal Society president
Sixth form education needs a major overhaul to properly prepare pupils for the future, a leading academic has said
Pupils are being put at a disadvantage by A levels, because it is a narrow system that is no longer "fit for purpose", according to Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society.
Britain is at risk of falling behind other nations by holding onto the qualifications, which encourage teenagers to specialise in a small number of subjects, he has warned.
The Nobel Prize-winning biologist called for a major shake-up to allow sixth-formers to study a wide range of academic and vocational subjects.
"A narrow approach to education is producing students who are entering higher education without the necessary skills required for independent learning and research, or the ability to write and communicate."
The biologist called for a move to a broader curriculum in the long term. He argued that in the meantime Britain could learn from A-level alternatives such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), which sees sixth-formers studying a wider range of subjects.
He added that there needed to be less "snobbery" around vocational qualifications. Sir Venki said: “Our education system is too focused on producing narrow specialists. It cannot make sense to focus on equipping students only for specialised careers, including becoming academics themselves.”
Sir Venki commented that career paths are changing and “we need to change expectations of what a person's 'career' - or perhaps 'careers' is more accurate - will look like.”
While specialists and academics are needed, “businesses need employees with a broad range of skills and experience that can help them to creatively adapt to technology-rich environments.”
See also: Curriculums
Headmaster says sorry over gender neutral toilets after children are ‘less happy’
A headmaster at a £20,000-a-year private school has issued an apology after he unveiled new ‘gender neutral’ toilets for pupils after they returned from summer holidays.
Adam Pettitt, 51, claimed the new toilets at Highgate School in North London would help those ‘gender fluid or don’t wish to identify themselves with a gender’. But some parents said pupils felt ‘less comfortable and happy’.
Earlier this year the 1,400 pupil school – which was founded in the year 1565 – also introduced a ‘gender neutral’ school uniform – under which boys could be permitted to wear skirts. Mr Pettit has now apologised to parents in a letter saying, ‘I’m aware that this change has left a number of pupils particularly in Years 7 and 8 feeling less comfortable and happy at school.
‘We will continue to support gender fluid and non gender binary pupils. However I have been asked whether the change which has impacted on many pupils is proportionate to the needs of a smaller number.”
See also: Gender-fluid girl boards with boys
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