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Consultants agree to ‘work for free’ on key council schools project

Consultants agree to ‘work for free’ on key council schools project

🕔25.Apr 2013

examA firm of consultants chosen to design a baccalaureate for Birmingham schools is working on the project for free, it has been revealed.

Skills for Birmingham beat off five rivals to win a city council contract to develop the baccalaureate curriculum.

However, the council is paying nothing for the work at this stage.

Schools cabinet member Cllr Brigid Jones (Lab Selly Oak) told a scrutiny committee the company was “working for free” on the understanding that the completed curriculum “may be marketable” in the future.

The baccalaureate was a key policy announcement when Labour regained control of the council last year.

The aim is to “focus on the skills that our young people will need to compete successfully for jobs and training”, according to the party’s manifesto.

Building on subjects in the English baccalaureate, which has since been dropped by Education Secretary Michael Gove, the Birmingham baccalaureate has been advertised as “bringing together the skills and competencies developed through education, work experience, training, volunteering, the creative arts, sports and participation in civic life”.

Firms wishing to do business with the council will be urged to sign up for the baccalaureate, and school leavers with the new qualification will be guaranteed an interview for jobs or training by the city council and subscriber businesses.

Cllr Jones said she hoped that up to 15 secondary schools would embark on a pilot project for the baccalaureate in September.

However, she was unable to say how many Birmingham primary and secondary schools had expressed an interest in the new qualification, or how many businesses were behind the idea.

She added that businesses would support the baccalaureate by offering work experience and mentoring youngsters.

Cllr Jones said: “Youth unemployment in Birmingham is exacerbated by the lack of recognition of employment-necessary skills and attitudes in the school and exam system.

“The purpose of the Birmingham baccalaureate is to provide a framework through which the skills and experiences of young people can be encouraged and recognised and to enable schools and business partners to work together to support every young person to build the skills necessary for the future world of work.

“The BBACC will be an overarching framework within which each young person evidences the skills and achievements that sit alongside their academic qualifications and are essential to being work-ready.”

The intention was to “motivate, inspire and raise the aspirations of young people”, Cllr Jones stated.

Conservative schools spokesman Cllr James Bird described a council document setting out details of the baccalaureate as “airy fairy” and warned of the dangers of making it mandatory for businesses to sign up, especially smaller firms that might not have the resources to provide training and mentoring.

GCSE results in Birmingham have improved dramatically since a low point in 2002 when only 33 per cent of pupils achieved 5A*-C grades including maths and English at GCSE. By 2012 the pass rate had risen to 60 per cent, slightly above the national average of 59 per cent.

However, pass rates for children from socially deprived backgrounds remain poor.

The figure for 5A*-C for white British and black Caribbean boys entitled to free school meals is 30 per cent compared to 77 per cent for Indian boys not entitled to free school meals.

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