Schools Flunk Dropout Test

From the July 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

The education system in Britain is failing. Student dropout rates are at dangerous levels—to the point of threatening “social cohesion,” warns a leading education official.

Those with little education—like the increasing number of dropouts—are finding it tough to make it in the changing British economy. Jobs for unskilled workers are drying up, while advances in technology are not only reducing the number of available jobs, but also changing those remaining jobs to require more advanced training.

Consequently, there may well be a “huge shrinkage of this employment market,” warned the leader of the biggest head teacher’s union in Britain, Mick Brookes. “When this happens,” he said, “we will not simply have an army of the unemployed, we will have an army of the unemployable—a huge threat to social cohesion” (Daily Mail, May 7).

Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, called for radical changes to primary education. “We cannot allow a whole army of the nation’s youth to leave school with nothing to show for those 11 years except disaffections and resentment,” he said. “These young people, who have been denied the taste of success in their school careers, vote with their feet at the earliest opportunity.”

The London School of Economics labels the 1 million unemployed, non-student young people in Britain a “lost generation” that is proportionally twice the size of those in Germany and France.

“These are the lost children. If you compare the number who were at school three years ago and the number who are 16 now, you see them dropping off the rolls fairly dramatically,” says Chris Skidmore, a political officer of the Bow Group and co-author of the Wasted Education study (Daily Telegraph, May 10).

If student dropout rates continue unabated, the consequences for British society could be huge. Economically, this “lost generation” of the unemployable is already costing taxpayers billions each year in crime and social welfare program payments.