The recently published Annual Report on the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education offers mixed conclusions on the state of 14-19 education. A three-year review, it was commissioned in October 2003 by the Nuffield Foundation to investigate issues around 14-19 education and training and aims to provide evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice.

Aims

The overall aim of the Review is to provide a critical scrutiny of every aspect of 14-19 education and training for England and Wales and seeks to make a comparison with similar programs in other countries. A culmination of all the past year's findings, the Annual Report's key findings offers an interesting picture of education and training for young people. The chief achievements within this sector have been highlighted, including efforts towards greater participation, increased flexibility within the system and the determination of the government to raise standard.

Weaknesses

However, the report makes some strong points that highlight the weaknesses of the education and training for young people. It points out that despite efforts towards increased participation, actual participation rates amongst 16-19 year old have not increased for a decade and a significant proportion of young people continue to leave the education and training system early. Interestingly, this conclusion has been made around the six-month anniversary of a large publicity campaign for Apprenticeships.

Contrasting the recent report on Apprenticeships published by the LSC, the Nuffield Annual Report remarks that young people's decisions and the factors that affect them are complex and poorly understood and furthers that there is the danger of polarization between the academically successful on the more prestigious pathways and those on the "weakly vocational" pathways. The report concludes that reform of 14-19 education and training must reverse this polarization.

Quality of learning and training and the role of employers are also areas that are discussed in the report. Commenting that the quality of work-based learning and training is uneven, the report says that a more accurate picture is needed of the different patterns in these two areas. Problems also arise when it comes to the pattern of employer involvement. The Nuffield Committee seek to clarify the contribution of employers" involvement in work-based learning and training.

What Next?

In the second year of the Review, the questions that the Nuffield Committee seek to answer are focused on several different areas including; the values and criteria to guide future development, curricula and learning experiences to meet the needs and aspirations of all young people and of wider society and the usefulness of current government reform on 14-19 education and training, amongst others.

After last month's Tomlinson report recommendations seeking greater inclusion of vocational learning into the current education system, it will be interesting to see what conclusions the Nuffield Review will be able to draw on the state of 14-19 education and training.

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