Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

A new SKOPE Policy Paper by Dr Paul Cappon is now available

Preparing English Young People for Work and Life. An International Perspective

Leading Canadian education expert Dr Paul Cappon has produced a report identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the English school system’s ability to prepare young people for work and life. The report stems from his time during 2014-2015 as a policy fellow at the Department for education (DfE), and was presented as a brief to the Secretary of State for Education in May this year.
The strengths of the English system include relatively high educational spending, improving participation rates in education, a relatively young teaching workforce, and a dynamic and high quality university system. These are counterbalanced by troubling trends within the system, such as England’s poor showing in the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC) survey, weak study to work transition mechanisms and results, and an under-developed vocational provision offer within schools. Concern is also voiced at the general weakness of opportunities for structured partnership between government and civil society, not least around agreeing goals and targets for the education system.
The report also draws attention to a range of issues concerning accountability mechanisms. It argues that a strong focus on accountability at the level of the individual school, while delivering some positive outcomes, will not, on its own, be enough to lift overall performance at national level, not least because it discourages collaboration. Dr Cappon observes that, “It is possible that powerful accountability systems for schools through league tables and OFSTED encourages compliance, prioritising and organisation according to compliance rather than benefit to learners. If so, there may exist a perverse effect from current individual school accountability on the system as a whole”. The report argues for a rebalancing of accountability frameworks, with more collective accountability that incentivise shared commitments to partnership and collaboration with other institutions in the locality.

The report is being published by the Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance (SKOPE), Department of Education, Oxford University as:
Paul Cappon. 2015. ‘Preparing English Young People for Work and Life. An International Perspective’, SKOPE Policy Paper No. 2, Oxford: Oxford University, SKOPE

It is available on

The paper originated as a brief, presented on 1 May, 2015, to the Secretary of State
for Education. The Department for Education (DfE) had asked Paul Cappon, as
Policy Fellow, to undertake in 2014-15 a review and to formulate findings,
conclusions and recommendations that could inform policy deliberations in the
Department. It is published with permission of DfE under an Open Government Licence.
All views, findings and recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the
author, who does not represent government or government policy.

Dr. Paul Cappon has been a national educational leader in Canada for the past several decades. From 2004 through 2012 he was President and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning, with pan-Canadian responsibility for all phases of lifelong learning, from early childhood to higher education and adult learning. He had previously served for eight years as Director General and CEO of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), which is the interprovincial coordinating body for all aspects of formal education in Canada.
Paul Cappon holds doctoral degrees in both Medicine (McMaster University, Ontario) and Sociology (University of Paris), and has integrated these and other disciplines throughout Paris), and has integrated these and other disciplines throughout his career. As a physician, he has specialised in Community Medicine and taught both social sciences and medicine at McGill University. As a sociologist, he taught at the University of British Columbia. As a university administrator, he served from 1991-1996 as Academic Vice-President at Laurentian University in Ontario.
As a leader in the fields of education, of medicine and of social sciences, Dr. Cappon has authored numerous publications and has been active in national and international community and public service organisations. In 1988, he was president of the world congress of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear war. He is chair of the Policy Action Group on Learning for the Commission on Globalisation.
Paul Cappon has been active internationally as Canadian representative for education at a number of bodies, including UNESCO, Commonwealth, APEC and OECD. Separately, he has been active in carrying out projects for the OECD, and has been a Fellow at the Robert Borsch Foundation in Germany. In 2014-15, he has been a Policy Fellow at the Department for Education in England, with a remit to examine the preparedness of English young people for life and work.

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