I’m a little behind the pace but there are only so many hours in the day and posting multiple times a day is a little self indulgent. That said, what should probably have been my lead yesterday got shunted but here it is today instead, fashionably late. Robert Halfon, the apprenticeships and skills minister was removed from his post for reasons not even he knows. Grumblings around the government suggest it may have been as a result of his close relationship with George Osborne who rather uncharitably described the PM, as a ‘dead woman walking’.
The why is almost immaterial, it defies logic that he should have been stood down, here was a government minister with a clear passion and interest in his brief – he helped deliver 900,000 new apprenticeships and was instrumental in passing the FE/TE bill – opening the door for literally thousands of students to access careers and gain skills. As regular readers will know I am in despair at an education system that prioritises university above almost everything else, the sooner we remove the relatively recent stigma of not going to university the quicker we can engage young people in meaningful training that will improve their life chances. Removing someone who clearly cares about this issue and more than that, one with a demonstrable track record of actually delivering, is somewhat baffling.
When we have such wide spread ennui about the need for useful careers advice and specifically careers advice that is given in league with academic advice – for some reason they are taken as two separate beasts – we need someone championing the cause. As recently as yesterday I was having a conversation with a despairing member of staff at a prestigious college who acknowledged how they were nothing more than a university clearing house. Those that weren’t uni bound were seen as some kind of steerage style misfits who should dwell in the shadows rather than bugger up their stats. Yet another who I regularly cite, at an outstanding school, was so proud to brag of the 60% of students who went to Russell Group universities. When I asked about the 40% who didn’t, she just looked confused. Then became distracted by a bee. It is a box ticking exercise, nothing more, they simply don’t give a shit beyond being seen to do the right things. When we start grading schools based on outcomes at 25 rather than 18 maybe they’ll be a little more creative.
It was for this reason that I was so pleased to see someone like Robert Halfon in post, actually looking for solutions, promoting the apprenticeship as more than just a low and dirty endeavour aimed only at brickies and sparkies and the intellectually bankrupt. Given all the jibes levelled at the Tories for being elitist and out of touch this was a clear demonstration of a grown up, pragmatic and socially responsible policy that was yielding useful results. By no means perfect but definitely rattling down the right side of the carriageway.
Whoever comes in next has some big shoes to fill and I can only hope they are as sincere and committed as Halfon has been.