A new Edge Foundation report examines the skills shortages faced by employers and why current education policies need to change

A new report by The Edge Foundation sets out the challenges presented by current education policies and their impact on young people, employers and the economy. The report Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System examines what employers need, and how education policies are helping or hindering this challenge.

The report’s authors have analysed nearly 30 years of data and since 2013 have identified a ‘plateauing and rentrenchment phase'. The findings indicate middle and lower attainers are disproportionately affected by the current Government’s reforms. Accountability measures are cited as contributing to this change, as is the promotion of a ‘knowledge rich’ and narrowing curriculum.

The 16-19 curriculum, the report explains, is increasingly designed to focus on the Russell Group's ‘facilitating subjects’ and on PISA scores, and that young people are asked to make a binary choice between academic and technical routes.

The report concludes that the sum of current education policies do not the address challenges set by employers, the economy and young people, indeed the report’s authors state: ‘The system is not only failing to meet their needs, but actively accelerating in the opposite direction’

The report helpfully shares examples of 'forward-thinking' schools, colleges and projects across England who are successfully supporting young people to develop 21C skills.


At the launch of the report, 30 October 2019, Tristram Hunt said: ‘Study art, design, be creative, immunise yourself against the robots stealing your jobs’.

Professor Roger Kneebone, said: ‘Essentially, people need to do things with their hands…they need to do stuff with stuff…we are missing the science in art and art in science.’

Dave Strudwick, Head of Plymouth School of Creative Arts, quoted Ai Weiwei: “Creativity can only be unlearned”

Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System was authored by Olly Newton with Andrea Laczik, Kat Emms, Helen Beardmore and Kayla Cohen. The report can be downloaded here

30 Oct 2018