AT LAST!!! Somebody is finally talking about the 50% of kids who don’t want to go to university.

This is a question I’ve asked many times. Non-academic people do the work on which our society depends, and we should honour and respect it.


I don’t have anything against academic life – I’ve been blessed by it. But when are we going to stop being snobbish about ‘academic’ or ‘non-academic’ – and start celebrating and encouraging each other in real life, which is, that we all need each other?

I could hold my breath for a long time … 

… but Ed Miliband’s idea about a technical Baccalaureate with English and maths makes more sense to me than the constant messing about with our education system that has been going on for years and never seems to improve the system.

(Which doesn’t mean, by the way, that I necessarily vote Labour – I’m waiting and seeing … )

(image from )



36 thoughts on “NON-UNIVERSITY KIDS

  1. For my sins, I’m a teacher. As I write this I am painfully aware I have UCAS references to write for about a dozen students; I thankfully cleared all my early entrants (medics and vets) before UCAS’ website went down. The reality is that the vast majority of students taking A levels see University as an inexorable next step even if they are not suited to a traditional academic path. Post 16 alternatives that are vocational are unfortunately viewed as a sign of “not good enough for…” by pupils and parents. As successive UK governments have insisted that a “one size fits all” and sought to remove a two tier education (ironic that we lost the CSE vs GCSE debate and replaced it with GCSE Higher vs GCSE Foundation tier and then by an Edexcel vs AQA vs OCR vs WJEC debate) I genuinely feel we have left students feeling they are only valued if they get X passes at GCSE and can therefore tackle the next hurdle. We then do the same at the A level hurdle. My own child will struggle to pass the necessary subjects at GCSE to clear his hurdle but I genuinely believe that if he is happy, can become independent (and support me in my dotage) and hopefully get married, get a partner, have kids of his own (or pets, though kids last longer) then frankly, he’s been a success even though he never got near Uni.


  2. I agree with Calls 1992 and shall add little to those comments.While a student in a well known botanical garden I think I read more of the classics than botany,listened to music and kept up with my history and just passed my finals, ending up head of a department,after a long time; during which I never looked for promotion.Having said that I had no problem with Magna Carta (which I read in a book).


  3. I agree. It seems I’m a little late to this commenting party, but I always make it clear to all the students I speak to at work that they can still do well in life without having to go to university. A lot seem to have (what I find worrying) a mindset of ‘if I don’t go to university, I won’t do well’. It really isn’t the case. Money isn’t everything, nor is the job you do – although job satisfaction does really help – and everything is perfectly achievable without having to to university (or at least go rushing off to one straight away, you can always go later in life).


    1. Exactly, And would you agree that teenagers are being asked to make huge, life-changing decisions a long time before it’s possible to know what it is they would like to do in life?


  4. Even those with degrees can’t escape snobbery, some companies will hire only those who came from known Universities. Discriminating those who can’t afford to pay high tuition fees and those who really can’t afford to pursue higher education.


  5. People did mention the tradespeople and kids who go onto link education schemes etc; some bits were recognisable, some were not familiar descriptions unless you were in the know. It’s the clarity of the differentiation that you are picking up on and the percentage that is quoted with it. If it is only 50% who have not been on some type of university course, something was okay IMHO.

    You have to take on board that some university courses changed from being purely academic and classical to being more skilled and practice based at a valued level. Gone are the days, I hope, when universities churned out engineers who had never got oil on their fingers, let alone, heaven forfend, got both their hands grubby from doing practical engineering tasks. The original polytechnics, now good universities, led the way. The established unis had to follow suit.

    What is missing are the technical colleges. They did a super job of developing skills in both the ably academic and the ably practical. There was another layer. There were skills focussed schools. Kids could be assessed for them with what was known as the 13+. Kids who were not developed enough for the 11+ got another opportunity to move out of secondary into this sector of the education system. The pupils did the mainstream subjects but they also developed their talents in specific areas, like electrical skills (today, it would have the added dimension of electronics and I.T. I expect), dressmaking, and arts based schools. Many of the children who went through these schools, did very well in the core academic results and moved onto the polytechnics of the day, and universities.

    There is a belief that with so many educated people in the UK now, there has been a devaluation in the value of a first degree.The obverse of that is, there has certainly been a reversal in elitism. Some of the discussion is about this, and what it has cost to produce a more educated youth across the board. It may lead to yet another reversal on the basis that educational resources must be targeted, (at the few). It could be a sore cut like many others.

    I would like to hope that if a technical Bac was introduced it would be wide ranging and very functional in the way in which the technical schools and their learning approach was. Even now, to gain apprenticeships – the few that exist – youngsters are required to have school leaving qualifications similar to those that would take them to university if they wanted to go down that route. A very few young people gain apprenticeships at GCSE/Standard Grade level, if they show particular aptitudes. We must not start to believe yet again, that being skilled demonstrates less ability than a university graduate. There is a danger of it rearing up again.


    1. It is a different kind of skill, and I am asking for parity, an equal appreciation of everyone’s gifts and abilities in a society where we need each other. I too hope that this will target those whose gifts lie in that direction. Let’s hope too that schools will be able to move away from coaching children for exams, and ticking boxes, to the job most teachers want to do – proper teaching, and the encouragement of youngsters according to gifts and interests. But I am not optimistic.


      1. Parity of appreciation of abilities is a tough ask, the mass psyche is not trained, or, geared to it.

        To give skills across the board within current physical resources is difficult, the term cloud cuckoo land comes to mind, however, I feel that is defeatist and does not compliment the number of able and gifted teachers there are. They require recognition and support too.

        The system of differentiated education I described actually proved itself. It produced skilled workers who were literate and numerate. This does not mean the secondary system and it’s narrow agendas should return, I would not like to see that. There is a place however, for the technical schools/colleges to be revived. Others less able can and should be assisted to be self-supporting and self-caring. The problem there is the same for the majority at the moment. Where do they find work environments that are appropriate, that enables them to be self-supporting, when there has been so much ability displacement in the workplace, where jobs happen to exist. This displacement is not new in rural areas where resources are fewer in number; it is being seen now over a broader spectrum of society as competition for earning a living has greatly increased.


      2. It is one of the observations I had, when the government started talking about checking that the disabled really couldn’t work. One of the spin-offs of the paralympics raises this vexed question again. Be that as it may, what is the point of insisting people should work, at a time when jobs are as scarce as hen’s teeth? Time for some joined-up thinking, rather than policies being made and changed with more than one eye on the coming election.


      3. The current ‘all should work’ is more about cutting benefits, clawing back money into the treasury, by redefining what disability is in terms of what can be financed with central financial support. ‘Some should work’ is a vexed question.

        £40 million being spent today on protecting Government from devious contractual arrangements that would not stand legal scrutiny, in times of austerity, and when genuine need is about to be neglected, and when much is already being neglected, is an absolute disgrace. grrr.



  6. i have always felt it a shame that apprenticeships were not encouraged in the UK. I myself worked my way up after leaving school at 16. You could in those days. In Germany and Switzerland apprenticeships are still readily available, and in Switzerland especially there is no stigma is taking a vocational training after school. Unfortunately germany seems to be going the way of the Uk, with more and more going into further education and those who chose trades being viewed as not very clever. If the UK brings back vocational training that would be great I reckon. What is the point of getting a degree when there are no suitable jobs to go to?


  7. I agree entirely. We don’t seem to produce anything these days, we used to be the workshop of the world! and proud of it! Now people seem to look down their noses at manual workers.

    We need a society that is rich in different skills.


  8. Yes, totally agree here Gilly, everyone has different skills and that’s what has always made us successful as a species. We need our hairdressers, plumbers etc as much as our scientists. And everyone does have different skills and talents to some degree.xxxxx


  9. Oh….splutter splutter…where would we be without our supposed ‘non skilled’ workers.

    Show me a politician that can thatch a roof, bricklay like to repair Medieval Chimneys…list goes on….and I hope their heating breaks down and no plumbers arrive.

    P xx


  10. A senior academic proposed to Blair’s government that a vocational non-academic qualification be initiated for those many thousands of kids who have no interest in conventional further education – the idea was dropped since it appeared that Labour ideally wanted ALL kids to attend university.
    Finally, someone seems to speaking a bit of sense……


  11. I also agree. we must get away from academic snobbery .By definition a pianist is a manual worker. the painter and the sculptor likewise. I have a brother with two masters in chemical engineering who describes himself as a technician. I am a horticulturalist yet can swing a spade with the gardener (now tell me what is the difference? snobbery)


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