April 2022. Article for Post-16 Educator 107

Curriculum alternatives

While reformers (including many Tories) continue to emphasise education’s potential in challenging
inequalities through expanding opportunities for those socially disadvantaged, radical practitioners
go further and argue an alternative curriculum is necessary. Here they have been joined by left-wing
academics, who, influenced by the writings of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and, in this country, by the
work of Raymond Williams, have theorised education as a site of ideological or ‘hegemonic’ struggle,
where there is potential to challenge, but also provide alternatives

January 2022. Article for Post-16 Educator 106

BTEC’s future is still in the balance.

Widespread opposition to Government plans to defund BTEC qualifications, ostensibly to make way for the new T-levels led to the forming of a  multi-organisational ProtectStudentChoice alliance, its representation stretching from teacher unions to the Association of Colleges. With the Skills and Post 16 Education Bill  scheduled to pass through Parliament,  118 cross party MPs and  peers supporting the campaign signed a letter to new Secretary of State Nadhim Zahawi…………..

January 2022 book chapter Socialist Education Association, Curriculum & Assessment

Skills Without Jobs?  The Further Education White Paper and beyond (with Patrick Ainley)

For the last decade and more the policy consensus has been on ‘rebuilding a vocational route to employment’. Tory politicians in particular have insisted that, rather than more graduates, there should be greater emphasis on ‘intermediate’ technical and vocational qualifications. Remember Lord (Kenneth) Baker’s crusade to promote the disastrous University Technical Colleges (UTCs) for the 14-19 age group. Then the Sainsbury Review of post-16 qualifications which led to new T (Technical) levels. More recently still, the Augar Report on post-18 provision argued that more sub-degree level vocational courses were needed in Higher Education. And so it is with the latest, long awaited, but underwhelming White Paper on Further Education, Skills for Jobs…………  

January 2022 book chapter Encyclopedia of Marxism and Education (Brill publications)

Education without jobs.

This chapter examines the relationship between education and employment, with specific reference to developments in the UK.  In contrast to ‘human capital theory’ — the claim that the expansion of education leads to increased economic prosperity and greater productivity, it argues that large numbers of jobs in the 21st century now only require low level skill and that as a result of the continued expansion of the education system, many young people are now increasingly ‘overqualified and under employed’.

It dismisses arguments about the transition to a post-Fordist or ‘knowledge’ economy and the opportunities this would provide for a new progressive agenda within education. It documents how ‘vocational’ alternatives to traditional academic qualifications and the reinvention of apprenticeships have failed to provide employment opportunities or to reduce the numbers of young people considering university attendance their only serious option.

In contrast to the arguments of Marxist ‘correspondence’ theory that education in capitalist societies closely reproduces the social relationships of production, the chapter argues that while education certainly reinforces social inequalities, its relationship to the labour market is far more contradictory and much less secure. Failing to provide adequate employment opportunities, education can never enjoy permanent legitimacy…….


Scroll down to download books I’ve published. Use the menu above to access journal articles,  research papers and information about  books that have been commercially published and other projects I’ve contributed to

Why young people can’t get the jobs they want and the education they need


Rewritten May 2021       





Hard Labour:  Young people moving into work in difficult times 

Martin Allen   October 2015

Download  Hard labour oct 15  




Another Great Training Robbery or a Real Alternative for Young People?

 (Rewritten and updated November 2016)




Download   a-great-training-robbery


  Other material on apprenticeships

Download     August 2016   Apprenticeships in England  Impoverished  but laddered   ICERES  paper

Patrick McGurk & Martin Allen    Apprenticeships-in-England


Download     September 2015   YMCA Journal article 

 Apprenticeships. New Opportunities for Young People, or  Another Great Training Robbery?


Download     October  2015     FORUM Journal article

Mr Cameron’s Million Apprenticeships


View     July 2014          Guardian feature ‘Dead end Apprenticeships…..’

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/10/apprenticeships-failing-View  ‘Dead end’ apprenticeships are failing to help young people find lasting workyouth-unemployment-skills#start-of-comments



Education Beyond the Coalition. Reclaiming the Agenda

Edited by Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley


ISBN  978-0-9575538-2-8   182 pp  £6.99.  Published Oct 2013





Download individual chapters


 John Yandell     Pedagogy     Clare Kelly   Primary    

Valerie  Coultas   English    Martin Allen   Gove and Exams  

Robin Simmons    FE         Patrick Ainley    Universities    

Richard Hatcher   LEAs     Ken Jones    How to Respond




                                                                                The  Great Reversal     

Edited by Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley     

ISBN   978-0-9575538-0-4   128 pp      Published February 2013

Read Review  http://radicaled.wordpress.com/a-review-of-the-great-reversal/

Currently not available as hardcopy         To Download click here  Great Reversal


The Great Reversal develops, expands and updates arguments made by the authors in two previous books…..The central argument is that the current strategy is to demolish what remains of the social democratic state education system established in the decades after the end of World War Two, and to do this as quickly as possible……compelling evidence is presented to illustrate that, rather than the lacking the skills, qualifications and abilities necessary for work, nowadays most young people are overqualified and underemployed. The authors are quite clear in their position: it is misguided economic policy rather than the education system that has let young people down………..

The Great Reversal is an engaging, incisive and affordable book. Those involved in providing education and training, advice and guidance, or welfare and support services for young people should read it. Trainee teachers, youth workers or careers advisers should also get a copy. Not only will it help students understand and critique what is going on round them, it will also enable them to argue for more just and meaningful alternatives.

Robin Simmons  University of Huddersfield    British Journal of Educational Studies







Why young people can’t get the jobs they want and the education they need. 

(a preliminary to The Great Reversal) 

Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley     02/12         

Download  e-book -why young people…. 


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