BBC’s new Education Strategy to encourage social mobility in the UK

James Purnell, Director, BBC Radio and Education has announced BBC’s Education Strategy his intention to focus the BBC’s education mission around improving social mobility across the UK.

Launching the new approach today James Purnell said, “Education has always been part of the BBC’s DNA and we want to renew our commitment to it in this new charter period. We want to work with partners to have a positive impact on people’s lives, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The BBC has consulted extensively with stakeholders in education and business to identify key areas where its content, reach, educational expertise and trusted relationship with audiences could help reduce inequality and do more to support learning for people of all ages.

The priorities, which will now be explored in partnership with a range of other organisations, include:

  • Improving the UK’s literacy rates by focusing on pre-school children to counter the fact that the UK's most disadvantaged 5 year olds can be 19 months behind their more affluent peers in vocabulary development on school entry
  • Championing the wider needs of children by building resilience and self-esteem and by supporting mental health just as much as we currently support their academic needs
  • Opening up the world of employment to young people at a time when recent CBI research has revealed that 84% of UK businesses feel the quality of careers advice young people receive is not good enough
  • Exploring opportunities that make it easier for adults to retrain; equipping them to thrive in a changing labour market and an increasingly digital world

BBC’s Education Strategy

Unveiling the BBC’s new thinking, Director of Education Sinead Rocks said, “In an age where education is widely recognised to be the most significant element in determining life chances, we want to work with a wide range of partners to see how, together, we can make a significant impact on the lives of our audience. These ideas are our starting point; informed by research and backed by other organisations who are excited to see what a revitalised education provision from the BBC could do for the UK as a whole.”

Over the next 12 months the BBC will work at pace with partners to explore these priorities in detail, build proposals and identify resources. We will update on our progress later this year.

According to the National Literacy Trust, one in five children starting school in England does not meet the minimum language skill requirements set by the Department of Education.

Over the course of the current Charter, the BBC, alongside the National Literacy Trust, is inviting other organisations to work with them to in a co-ordinated approach to raise the communication and literacy skills of a million under-fives to make sure they have the best possible start to their education.

Jonathan Douglas, Director, National Literacy Trust said, “The National Literacy Trust is thrilled that it will be working in partnership with the BBC to close this gap. The BBC has the unique ability to engage the people who can make the biggest difference to early language development - parents and families. More early communication with babies and young children will develop the early language and literacy skills which are the foundations of educational attainment, employability and wellbeing.”

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation, added:

“We know that children from the poorest homes fall behind form the earliest stages of learning. By the time school starts their language skills can be months behind their classmates, a gap that only widens throughout school. So it is good the BBC’s education strategy is focused on raising the communication and literacy skills of disadvantaged under-fives. Getting it right for this group could make a big difference to social mobility, by improving their chances at school and in later life.”

It is increasingly recognised that academic achievements alone are not enough to prepare young people in the UK for work. A range of important transferable skills are also seen as critical for opening up career opportunities. Low levels of ‘work-readiness’ in students leaving education are regularly cited as having a negative effect on both the UK workforce and on young people themselves.

The BBC will build on its online study service BBC Bitesize, currently used by 80% of secondary school pupils and 50% of primary school pupils, to help teenagers acquire life skills and offer them career advice. Using insight from organisations including the CBI and National Careers Service, the new BBC Bitesize will become a personalised user experience mapped to key milestones including career choices and preparation for work.

Neil Carberry, Managing Director of People and Infrastructure, Confederation of British Industry said, “Education is the most powerful and important driver we have to improve lives. While success in the curriculum matters, we all know this is not the whole picture. Focus must also be put on developing wider behaviours and attitudes, such as determination, optimism and emotional intelligence, which help us navigate life’s challenges and seize opportunities. This is good for businesses, but it is also the right thing to do. We are proud to support the BBC’s Education Strategy, helping bring inspiring and exciting experiences with employers and industry to everyone, ensuring people of all ages and backgrounds, have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.”

CBI research also showed that 79% of businesses see skills gaps as a threat to the UK’s current labour market competitiveness.

Technological advances such as the continued development of machine learning and automation are bringing significant disruption to the UK labour market. A report by the PWC suggests that up to 30% of UK jobs could be at high risk of automation in the next 15 years.  As a result, it is becoming increasingly necessary for people to retrain throughout their careers.

The BBC wants to work with partner organisations including The Open University to explore if it can enable more people to gain new skills that increase their employment prospects in a changing world.

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University said, “In the next 20 to 30 years there are going to be millions more job vacancies than there will be school leavers. Part-time and lifelong learning will be key to giving people in the existing workforce the skills they need for the new economy – allowing them to learn while they earn. The Open University is delighted to be building on its long partnership with the BBC by exploring fresh ways of reaching the adult students of the future.”

For more information on the BBC’s Education Strategy click here

March 8, 2018

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