News & Events

Balancing Life Chances – Balancing the Books

Michael Mercieca's blog for the Huffington Post UK

On the day Theresa May became Prime Minister, she made a landmark statement that shifted the agenda. Instead of repeating the familiar mantra of using austerity to balance the books, she focused instead on reducing the disillusion, deprivation and divide in our country. She will know that her new cabinet has the chance to do both: come closer to balancing the books and increase life-chances for all people, young and old – the two are not mutually exclusive; even if for far too long it might have seemed that way.

But whatever shape this new government agenda takes, and the signs are positive, it must include a radical re-think, long-term planning and bold execution in our education system.

For too long the narrow academic ‘exam factory’ approach in our educational establishments has been seen as the way forward, even though it is so backward looking in its design and origins. It had zero chance of addressing our current problems; it was never going to deliver the practical solutions we so desperately need.

But if it wasn’t going to deliver the solutions, what are the problems? The key challenges are the same as they were five years ago: the skills gap; the gender gap; the productivity gap; the STEM gap; the literacy and numeracy gap; social immobility and of course continued high youth unemployment – at 14% still far too high, nearly triple the headline rate (5%). It is a depressing list.

Sticking plaster solutions such as putting financial education onto the curriculum, but only for secondary state schools, will not deliver any significant change. Like all these short-termist solutions, financial education will only work if it is properly embedded in the curriculum for all schools (including primary) and teachers are given the training, resources and curriculum space to teach them properly.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post website.