The Education Secretary Damian Hinds is embarking on a fact finding mission to Germany and the Netherlands as part of his commitment to ensuring every child in this country will have a well-rounded, world-class education - regardless of whether they choose a technical or academic route - so that Britain is fit for the future.
Read the comment piece that the Secretary of State has written for the Times Red Box today outlinging the aims of the trip.
This week I’m on a fact finding mission, visiting Germany and the Netherlands, to discover how they educate their young people to have the practical and technical skills needed for a highly productive economy.
The UK boasts an open, enterprising economy, as well as world-class universities and research institutions. However, productivity is a perennial challenge. Compared to Germany our economy is 26% less productive. This is important because productivity directly affects the kind of jobs people can get and the size of the wage packet they can take home. This then affects that amount of tax the Treasury receives and the amount the Government can spend on public services like schools and hospitals.
We know Germany’s highly skilled workforce is a primary driver for their economic growth. Technical and vocational training in Germany is high calibre, combining classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Critically, it is not perceived as being less prestigious than university, with near half of young Germans taking this route, often through apprenticeships.
In Britain young people have a high quality academic route to follow, through A-levels and university; but this route doesn’t exist in the same way for technical or vocational education.
That’s why this government has had such a large focus on developing quality apprenticeships and why we are introducing new T Level qualifications, to provide a technical alternative to A Levels. T Levels will be introduced from 2020 and combine classroom study and real-world industry placements in fields like manufacturing, digital, medicine and construction.
More than 200 employers - including Fujitsu, Accenture and GlaxoSmithKline – are working closely with us to design the content of these qualifications so they come with the employer stamp of approval.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put our technical education on par with the best in the world and it’s vital we get it right. That’s why I will, unashamedly, look at what other countries are doing and copy their successes.
In Germany I’ll be visiting smaller businesses to find out how they provide apprenticeships, as well as the Siemens Technopark, to see a multinational firm’s cutting edge apprenticeship training in action.
In the Netherlands, they link education and work at a young age, meaning 12-year-olds are considering possible career options when they choose their subjects; with vocational options proving the most popular. The Netherlands also has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the EU, behind only Germany and Austria.
I will tour some of the top-performing technical colleges in the Netherlands, alongside leading employers: Siemens, Festo and Accenda. UNICEF have rated Dutch children the happiest in the world compared to other industrialised countries; I’ll also meet Dutch teachers and academics to learn about their systems and styles of teaching.
My ambition is for every child in this country to have a well-rounded, world-class education that sets them up to live happy, successful lives. This means making sure that whatever route they choose – academic or technical – they are given the knowledge and skills they need to help them get on. By helping everyone to fulfil their potential, we will also make sure Britain is fit for the future.
Britain led the first industrial revolution and we are well placed to seize the initiative again; but the competition is fiercer than ever. Crucially, if we’re to continue to compete and prosper on the global stage, we need a highly skilled workforce that can drive forward our productivity.