UK education system not fit for purpose, parents say

Research shows that two-thirds of parents think the UK education system isn't preparing young people for work

24 October 2014 / Jump to comment (1)

Two-thirds of parents (66%) don’t think that the current education system prepares children for work, according to new research published today by the City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development. The research was commissioned by YouGov to reveal parents’ perceptions of their children’s education and future employment prospects.

Of the 3500+ parents surveyed, the majority (64%) believe that children aren’t being provided with the key skills that employers want, like communication and teamwork. And 57% of them think the education system is far too focused on academia.

More than just good grades

In fact, almost half (49%) said that employers care more about work experience than good grades. A third (36%) worry that their children won’t understand the link between their education today and their future careers.

But despite parents’ lack of confidence in the school system, they trust their children to make their own decisions about their education and careers. The most common age that they think their children are ready to make those decisions is 16, with three in 10 (30%).

And while two-thirds (66%) of parents believe they still have a role to play in advising young people about their education, 51% of parents have reservations about their ability to give that advice. Over half (51%) say they don’t have enough experience, and 46% don’t think they know enough about different careers.

The research also revealed:

  • Parents are increasingly seeing the value of vocational qualifications, with almost three quarters (72%) recognising that they are just as useful as a degree in allowing people to start a successful career.
  • Parents still believe university is the top choice for the best route to a successful career (35%).
  • Parents care more about whether or not a child would be good at a certain job (44%) and enjoy it (42%), than they care about pay (26%).
  • The top three industries that parents would like their children to work in are computers/ electronics, law/legal services and engineering.
  • When thinking about giving their children more control over their education and careers, parents worry the most about the influence of popular culture (31%) and the impact of peer pressure (27%).

Parents play a crucial role

Speaking about the research Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group said:

‘It’s no surprise that parents are concerned about their children’s futures. The education system isn’t doing enough to link what’s being learnt in the classroom to future careers, or advise young people about the opportunities available to them. This isn’t good enough.

'It’s crucial that young people are given the chance to understand what the workplace is like, and learn about the skills they need to open the door to their dream jobs.

'And of course, parents play a crucial role in guiding these choices. So it’s encouraging to see such positivity around vocational qualifications and apprenticeships. ‘Parents naturally want the best for their children, and they realise that employers want more in a candidate than just good grades.

'But they cannot be expected to know about all of the routes and options available to their children. That’s why The Skills Show is so important. It brings to life the variety of exciting opportunities available to young people, and showcases just how far skills can take you.’

University wasn't for me

Tiana Locker, Youth Engagement Officer for the City & Guilds Group, also commented on the importance of good careers advice. She said:

‘I know from my own experience that young people need to understand the link between what they learn in school and their future careers. I left college with the grades that I needed to get into university. But when I decided it wasn’t for me and to get a job, I had loads of doors closed in my face.

'I thought that good grades meant a good job, but employer after employer told me that I didn’t have the right skills that they were looking for. Then I started an apprenticeship and everything changed.

‘That’s why I’m so passionate about co-ordinating City & Guilds’ Apprentice Connect and Work Experience programmes. I can help young people figure out what they want to do, understand what skills employers are looking for, and how they can take the first step towards their dream job.’

Children need the freedom to explore

Amy Treasure, a mum of three and author of the ‘Mr and Mrs plus Three’ blog about family life said: ‘As a parent to teenagers I can understand and relate to the parents who have concerns regarding their children's future.

'I think it is fair to say that the current education system does not place enough emphasis on preparing our young people for employment. Our children need the freedom to explore all the options available to them and to know that vocational qualifications and apprenticeships are a valid route into the workplace. Teaching them that the valuable skills acquired through such schemes can open doors and increase their employability.’

Get involved

The research has been released ahead of The Skills Show, which takes place from 13 - 15 November. As the UK’s largest skills and careers event, it’s an opportunity for young people to meet employers and discover career opportunities. City & Guilds is the Lead Premier Sponsor of The Skills Show.

Research in pictures: our infographic explores parents' views on education

Comments 1 Comment

Keith Allen

04 June 2016

66% of parents allow their children to attend school for 11 years (age 5-16) without them achieving a reasonable level of maths or English. These parents generally don't challenge the schools to ask why? Is 11 years not long enough?

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