John Jackson says the poor educational standards of school leavers is worrying for our industry

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 his main theme was education, education, education. Since then, the standard of education has fallen calamitously, as the Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC) recently revealed.

Insurers, the FSSC stated, are horrified at the low level of attainment of school leavers and graduates, and their lack of motivation.

No one should be surprised at these conclusions. Modern education is not about literacy and numeracy, but social engineering.

The government's aim of having half of all pupils going on to university is ridiculous: the sole criteria should be ability.

Now the FSSC is to try to raise standards in an 18-month programme of work. In other words, it will do the job which the state education system has signally failed to do. What worries me is that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is to be involved in this process.

My advice to the FSSC is to keep this useless government department as far away from young people as possible. The DfES is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. As they say in the best police television series, the DfES "has previous".

The dumbing down of examinations, in which there are expected to be no failures, just degrees of success, has resulted in virtually illiterate youngsters being let loose on commerce and industry. They lack both parental and school discipline, and start their careers in competitively intensive professional commercial companies, in an atmosphere for which they are ill-equipped.

Of course, it would be unfair to brand all young people with such a depressing brush, as many of them come into the wider world with considerable academic achievements and a strong desire to succeed.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, business studies remains the most popular course for both UK and overseas students, so perhaps all is not lost, despite the FSSC findings.

The insurance industry is now one in which qualifications are becoming paramount. The work of the CII, in particular, has had a profoundly positive effect on standards within the industry.

The now almost universal policy among insurers and brokers of continuing professional development ensures the educational process is ongoing.

Many of those who have left school or university to come into the insurance business and think that education is behind them are in for a big shock. IT