Birmingham business leaders have hit out at youngsters’ classroom attitudes after the UK slipped below Poland and Norway in education rankings in maths, reading and science.
Bosses say pupils’ willingness to learn is the key to the fall in standards – and that throwing money alone at schools cannot help.
Ross Gurdin, policy adviser at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said: “While the number of GCSE students taking up science has increased this year we are failing to shape up compared to other OECD countries, and this threatens to damage the UK’s long term growth.”
In 2009 75 per cent of the working-age adult population had numeracy skills below the level of a good pass at GCSE and 56 per cent had similar literacy skills.
Chamber member Kate Canty said:: “The problem is down to attitude. We have to encourage pupils to want to learn, and we cannot do that just by throwing money at the problem.
“You only have to look at the amazing work being done at Perry Beeches, the most improved school in the history of exam results in the country, to see that attitude plays a huge part in the attainment of pupils.”
A Chamber spokesman added: “Poor basic skills in the workplace cost UK industry more than £4.8 billion a year from low productivity and attendance, inadequate quality control, lost orders and bad communication.
“Poor literacy and numeracy is often cited by employers as one of the most fundamental issues that Government needs to address.
“The UK spends £54,000 per student while Germany and Hungary achieve a similar performance for £40,000 and £28,000.”
The Chamber says skills shortages in Birmingham directly affect the productivity and bottom line of businesses.
A Birmingham Chamber survey found that 92 per cent of respondents thought that the skills levels of their employees were crucial to the success of their business.
The Chamber is now urging the Government to help firms improve workplace skills by first addressing the issue in schools.