For too long we have been fixed upon giving young people binary choices at the age of 16: sixth form or college, workplace, or university.
We would replace the existing school leaving age of 16 with a new ‘skills participation age’ of 18, this means that the whole cohort will either be in education, or a job with training. We would work with employers and FE colleges to ensure, via our FE reforms and flexible working, that everyone who wants training at work can access it.
To ensure parity of esteem across all pathways we would increase funding to careers services and advice in schools and colleges – reversing cuts over a number of years, these would be mandated to encourage vocational pathways before and after age 16 as well as at higher education.
We would set up a structural review of the HE and entire post-16 education sector in the first six months of a Plaid-led government.
This review would be charged with delivering curriculum reforms in post-compulsory education and training in Wales similar to those being taken forward for three to 16-year-olds, these reforms would shift the focus from examinations, testing and certification, to emphasise knowledge, learning and skills. The reforms would remove early specialisation, the tendency to ‘teach to the test’ and eliminate the artificial choices between STEM and non-STEM subjects.
Lecturers’ pay and conditions will be improved to retain and attract high quality professionals.