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A gulf has opened up between what education systems provide and what children and young people need, according to a new partnership between leading non-profit organisations called Whole Education.

Launched today, the partnership believes that whilst our schools try to ensure that young people are literate, numerate and gain academic qualifications, the emphasis on testing and passing exams often squeezes out other skills that are just as vital in today’s world.

Speaking at the launch, young people, employers (BT, Waitrose) and practitioners said they are determined for all young people to receive a well-rounded education that combines practical skills with vocational and academic study whatever their ability.

The Whole Education partnership will work to ensure that young people learn practical skills such as communication and teamwork, develop qualities such as resilience and empathy and acquire knowledge that goes beyond literacy and numeracy to an understanding of our culture.  

Working with more than 5000 schools and colleges, (including three-quarters of secondary schools) and with many youth groups and charities, the Whole Education partnership aims to spread a different approach to learning throughout the community.  

Through the Whole Education Network, partners will provide easy access to a range of projects and resources for practitioners. At the same time they will engage young people, parents, employers, universities and others who believe in the need for a wider view of education. In growing a wider movement, Whole Education seeks to influence policy to be more supportive of those who want to provide young people with the well rounded education they need.

So far the active partners include Oxfam, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, RSA, Innovation Unit, Young Foundation, Human Scale Education, UK Youth, Futurelab, ASDAN, Co-operative College, Food for Life Partnership, Campaign for Learning, Studio Schools and ViTaL Partnerships.   

John Dunford, General Secretary of ASCL and Chair of Whole Education, said:

“Whole Education brings together a range of projects that seek to provide a broader and deeper education for all young people. For over 20 years political pressure to concentrate on the basics and use test results to place schools in a spurious rank order has created an education system that has prioritised a narrower and less exciting curriculum.”

“Whole Education has a wider view of the aims of education and of what young people need to be well prepared for their adult lives. Through the Whole Education network, we exist to encourage schools and other young people’s organisations to engage with our partners and use their projects and materials to bring a richness and liveliness to learning. Beyond that practical function, Whole Education exists to influence the direction of education towards a broader experience for young people, which will both prepare them better for life in the 21st century and enrich the society in which they live.”

Chair, Learning and Skills Improvement Service and a member of the Whole Education Advisory Board, Dame Ruth Silver said:

“Whole Education builds on the best of the professional work done by many people and organizations. It recognizes and appreciates the creativity that has led to a warehouse of curriculum success. It is determined to enable us to share what we have and to create together what is needed. In doing so, it will move us further towards a fulfilling 21st century education for all, believed in by all.”

Lead Director, Nuffield Review of 14-19 Training and Education and a member of the Whole Education Advisory Board, Professor Richard Pring, said:

“It is clear from two major reports on education – the Alexander Review of Primary Education and the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training, both published in 2009 – that the education of young people suffers from the narrowing effects of measurable targets, an inflexible system of assessment and qualifications, and unexamined assumptions about the aims of education.

“Both reports call for a wider vision of learning – one that is relevant to all young people irrespective of ability or of social and ethnic background. Such an education rejects the narrow view of academic success, which shapes national assessment, and calls for a return to a broader understanding of what education is for – enabling all young people to understand the world in which they live, to act intelligently within it, to be practically capable, to have a sense of achievement and fulfilment, to make a contribution to the wider society of which they are part.”

For more information, visit the Whole Education website.


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