Tom Richmond: Why entrepreneurs should be put in charge of education policy

THIS week’s A-level results – and next week’s GCSE grades – are already following a predictable pattern. Government ministers are congratulating themselves on a job well done while the Opposition bemoan a lack of academic rigor.

It’s a simple reversal of roles from the time of the last Labour government when Ministers hailed record pass-rates as a vindication of their approach while the Tories sniped from the sidelines and denigrated the efforts of those concerned.

Perhaps one answer is for the politicians to be removed from the policy-making process when it comes to education and for greater responsibility to be passed to business leaders and those inspirational headteachers who actually have experience of day-to-day life in classrooms around the country.

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Like it or not, the curriculum needs to become far more business-focused so today’s students have every chance of becoming tomorrow’s wealth-creators when they will be competing against entrepreneurs from emerging countries who are not only computer whizzes but fluent in a number of languages. It’s too important to be left to the gimmicks and whims of meddling Ministers.

In fairness, Iain Duncan Smith appears to recognise this. The Work and Pensions Secretary says Britain must again become a “nation of shopkeepers” as he announces a new review into why fewer people from disadvantaged backgrounds are setting up small businesses.

He can begin by looking at his Government’s own policies. Having identified the importance of work experience, Ministers appear intent on creating a team of “youth ambassadors” to sell this notion. This is misguided – the key is ensuring that there are sufficient placements available and employers have time to give guidance to participants rather than treating them as skivvies or leaving them to twiddle their thumbs.

It is also important that Ministers recognise the importance of the college sector – further education continues to be marginalised by the annual political machinations over GCSE and A-level grades. Funding for colleges has not been ring-fenced and many are dropping science and language subjects for 16 to 19-year-olds over funding pressures.

According to the Sixth Form College Association, disadvantaged pupils will be “disproportionately affected” and 83 per cent of colleges said they did not believe funding levels for 2016 would allow them to offer the support required by such students.

As such, the time has come for far greater consistency – and continuity – when it comes to education policy. It’s not just about exam grades, it is also about those vocational courses that can make or break the career potential of those who are less academically-inclined than others. Mr Duncan Smith probably recognises this, but do sufficient of his colleagues?

That’s why entrepreneurs and others should have a far greater input – they, surely, cannot do any worse than those meddling politicians whose tinkering continues to detract from the best interests of those young people left at the mercy of this infuriating interference.

I’M afraid that I have little sympathy for those Labour MPs who want the leadership contest terminated because of the increased likelihood of a Jeremy Corbyn victory amid fears that the party has been infiltrated by left-wing activists and mischief-makers from other parties.

These were the rules that were put in place under Ed Miliband and I don’t recall many complaints at the time. Perhaps senior figures should have been more conscientious in scrutinising the changes before they were implemented.

Calling off the poll at the 11th hour would be a fatal blow to Labour.

Yet it would be premature to write off Labour completely. A similar charge 
was levelled against the Tories after 
the 1997 and 2001 elections before the natural order of government was restored in 2010 when David Cameron became PM.

It will take time. On the basis that Wobbly Ed’s leadership is comparable to William Hague’s ill-fated leadership, and that the next leader only survives briefly in a reign comparable to Iain Duncan Smith’s tenureship of the Tories, Labour will require several more attempts before they elect the right man – or woman – for the job. By then, they may also have the right rules of engagement.

HOW disappointing that bosses at Morrisons declined the opportunity to write a comment piece explaining their policy towards dairy farmers and decision to sell premium pints of milk that will see an additional 10p per litre go to processors. “I think we’ve said enough today. Time for Asda to take up the baton,” said spokesman Julian Bailey.

Such a cavalier attitude smacks of playing ‘pass the parcel’ rather than a committed desire to work with farmers on safeguarding the dairy industry.

It also does not explain whether Morrisons will promote its new super-milk – or whether it will be hidden by its cut-price current supplies that are already branded with the Union flag and an unflattering picture of a cow.

AFTER a summer sojourn to Devon, and the pleasure of being stuck in a traffic jam on a country lane while a herd of cows were moved to an adjacent field, a couple of observations struck me. First, rural roads – whether in the South West or here – were not built for those super-caravans that now resemble pantechnicons. Nor were they designed for those selfish 4x4 drivers who look to bully other motorists out of the way.

Second, internet access here in rural Yorkshire is far speedier – and far more advanced – than in the West Country.

Perhaps this is one reason why 58 per cent of Britons have not enjoyed a day trip to the coast in the past year according to the National Trust. People can’t survive without iPhones and gadgets for a few hours. How depressing.

FAIR play to the Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom for choosing this week of all weeks to come to Yorkshire to seek new trade opportunities. The Honourable Alexander Downer showed more determination than most of his country’s cricketers. However let me appraise the diplomat of one fact – Joe Root is not for sale at any price. Not only has the impish boy wonder from Sheffield become the best batsman in the world on official ratings as England celebrate a heartwarming Ashes success over the Old Enemy, but the young tyro’s sheer weight of runs has also ended the international career of Kevin Pietersen once and for all. The latter is surely the sporting achievement of the year.