Should we listen to Terry Leahy?

“Tesco boss raps school standards” reports the BEEB, and Terry Leahy is quoted as saying he believes employers “pick up the pieces”.

Terry Leahy

Addressing the self-titled “industry experts on international food and grocery retailing and supply chain” at the IGD convention, he explains that, “As the largest private employer in the country, we depend on high standards in our schools.”

Both the government and NUT disagree that standards are poor so why now and why to a bunch of greengrocers is Leahy making these comments? And does he have a point?

We are told repeatedly that exams are being dumbed down and that standards are falling despite the fact that Literacy and Numeracy levels are rising. So why is Leahy positioning himself in this way?

Perhaps he is like others in UK business angry that they have to fit the bill for training budgets especially of Basic Skills. In recent times large organisations such as Tesco have been asked to sign up to Government programmes such as Train to Gain and contribute much more to training than in the past. New Labour and Terry Leahy are intimate, however, so maybe Tesco has one eye on the Opposition and, keen to avoid the ‘stick’ of mandatory and legally-binding education and training contributions in the future, is putting pressure on the incumbent to change its mind.

Alternatively, perhaps Leahy has made a schoolboy error – we all do after all – but surely he must realise that those taking jobs in retail are those who don’t have academic skills sufficient enough to pursue higher qualifications such as A levels and a degree. No-one working 24/7 to pass their A Levels and take a degree are aiming to work on the shopfloor, stacking shelves and serving customers in food and retail. It is a job for the UNskilled. It seems Mr. Leahy has forgotten which sector his own company is in. Rather than condemning UK school standards, he should consider improving pay and conditions in order to attract the SKILLLED staff that he sees to covet.

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