Headlines: November 26th, 2008

Government inspectors say young people are keen to learn about business and economics but that too many lessons in the subject are uninspiring and lacking in any excitement. A new report from Ofsted recommends that schools and colleges give their students more opportunities to engage with real businesses.

Today’s report, ‘Developing young people’s economic and business understanding’ also suggests that there should be programmes to help all students financial skills and economic understanding by making the best possible use of expert teachers.

The inspectors found that one in three lessons were thorough but uninspiring with too much ‘talking-at’ pupils and an over-dependence on worksheets. In about half the 118 schools visited in preparing the report students complained they did not have enough direct contact with businesses and ‘hands-on’ experiences, such as running mini enterprises. They were disappointed there were no opportunities to use the knowledge and understanding they gained through work experience and part-time jobs in their assessed work.

Ofsted says although the Government has tried in the last 25 years to develop economic and business understanding for 14 to 16 year olds, the subject remained the least well developed aspect of work-related learning and students’ basic understanding was generally still weak. One reason, it suggests, that teaching is not better is the variable availability and quality of professional development for business and economics teachers. Coursework was often mediocre because it was based on description rather that students being involved with real business problems.

On a more positive note, the inspectors found the quality of newly qualified business teachers was often good and that many of them could use their own experience of working in business before moving into teaching.