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CBI Lobbies to Boost Basic Skills


The head of the CBI is calling for a new-year assault on the failings of the education system, which, he says, are leaving thousands of people unemployable.

In his 2005 New Year message, Digby Jones said that too many youngsters faced exclusion from work because they could not read, write or add up properly.

The CBI leader said that since 1997 two-million pupils had failed to achieve GCSE grade C or above in English and Maths. He estimated that to address the basic skills problem schools must get about 130,000 additional pupils to pass English and maths every year.

The move comes as new Education Secretary Ruth Kelly prepares a critical education white paper for publication early in the new year. This will include the official response to the Tomlinson report, which called for a major shake up of the UK exam system.

The CBI wants the white paper to include an ambitious new target for English and maths with 70 per cent of youngsters getting A* to C in both topics by 2007. Since 1997 the average pass rate for both has been 46%, 24 percentage points short.

Digby Jones said: "High skill levels are the greatest protection that any of us can have from the challenges of globalisation.

"That's why it's so worrying that so many youngsters are being condemned to a low-skilled poorly-paid future. My fear is that many who cannot read, write or add up properly will find themselves unemployable - and the problem is only going to worsen."

"This is a scandal, but it is not a new scandal. It's not a problem that has been created by this government. Indeed, ministers have done a lot to chip away at the problem since 1997. But let's be honest, no political party has cracked this one."

The CBI leader plans to make basic skills a key lobbying theme in the run up to the next general election. He wants all political party manifestos to include policies designed to improve literacy and numeracy.

Ahead of the government's white paper, the CBI plans to publish a basic skills action plan, giving full details on the 70 per cent target for English and maths.


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