Exclusive Articles

featured

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

As we enter the last week of the general election it is interesting to see - and really positive - that both parties are taking seriously post 16 education and training.

But the Conservatives and Labour have very different views of how vocational education and training should be shaped and how it fits with schools, employers and universities.

Conservative Manifesto

We have seen for some time now how the Conservatives believe that ‘employer led’ policies will support VET, now renamed Technical and Professional Education (TPE), and that positioning experienced employer stakeholders at the heart of policy formation is key to that idea.

A positive view of those ideas would agree that vocational education and training does need a high status route that could match the academic - hence A levels are matched by T levels. And the involvement of employers can only be a good thing if we are to develop high quality and meaningful employability for young and old alike.

However, a criticism would be that T levels need coupling to a secondary school curriculum much more firmly in order to enhance their status as a progression route. Secondly, that employers while significant to developing workforce expertise are not necessarily best placed to do that without some checks and balances. But while ‘over 40% of businesses have no business plans, half have no training plan and two thirds have no training budget,’ (UKCES (2009) Ambition 2020) it is hard to see what employers (as an aggregate) are bringing to the table on this evidence..

The Conservative policy has some potentially unintended outcomes for they would appear to drive a wedge (rather than provide a ladder) between the academic route and the promise of technical and professional education. With the reintroduction of selection (grammar schools), and asking universities and independent schools to help run state schools, we have a clear intent to focus schools on the academic route. Added to this the current aim of expecting 90% of pupils to enter for the EBacc by 2025 would all seem to offer further deterrence to an aspirational T level route.

So governance structures and school linkage still look decidedly weak in this manifesto. What about post 16 structures themselves? A lot of criticism has been directed at the failure of UTCs to be sustainable and to meet expectations and yet there is no shift on policy here.

Similarly, from a Sixth Form perspective, there is no shift in policy. The consequences of the area reviews mean that a number of sixth forms will become academies and while stakeholders agree on maintaining a sector identity the sustainability of that over time is questionable. I say that because the Conservative government appear wedded to institutional proliferation while, at the same time, supporting an aspirational ethos. How one squares the circle of a comprehensive aspirational ethos and support for institutional differentiation is hard to see in a society that is also evidencing major inequalities between the very rich and poor.

‘Establish institutes of technology in every major English city.’ Conservative Manifesto

The idea is that the English ‘dual’ system will begin at 16 with the introduction of T levels - 15 fifteen routes of sub-degree ‘technical’ level curriculum areas. The level of such qualifications is aimed to be level 3, and that means that they are aiming for learners who ‘could’ have done A levels but were not really suited to them for one reason or another, or, more likely, those who are currently doing A levels but do not see a relevant alternative and, finally, they may be for those who would like to progress into specific employment areas. The new T levels do come with the promise of being directly relevant to the labour market (after all it is employers who will be at the centre of their design).

It has to be said that the space of T levels is needed and that few doubt this ambition. The problem is in the design of the curriculum, the implementation of that curriculum and the coherence of how that curriculum will fit and develop over time.

One thing for sure is that there are some areas that real ambition is seen in the policy. Whether one agrees with the establishment of further institutions in the post 16 sector the promise of a high quality, university supported, institute of technology, would appear to be a positive move.

‘they will become anchor institutions for local, regional and national industry, providing sought after skills to support the economy, and developing their own local identity to make sure they can meet the skills needs of local employers.’ Conservative Manifesto

And, not to leave out our improving and developing FE colleges: ‘We will invest in further education colleges to make sure they have world-class equipment and facilities and will create a new national programme to attract experienced industry professionals to work in FE colleges.’ Conservative Manifesto

Further intentions are also positive: ‘We will increase the number of teaching hours by thirty per cent to an average of 900 hours per year and make sure that each student does a three-month work placement as part of their course. And we will extend our reforms to the highest levels of technical qualification.’

Finally, a sting in the tail:

‘To ensure that further, technical and higher education institutions are treated fairly, we will also launch a major review of funding across tertiary education as a whole, looking at how we can ensure that students get access to financial support that offers value for money, is available across different routes and encourages the development of the skills we need as a country.’ Conservative Manifesto

The answer to the ‘funding’ priority, highlighted by Sainsbury, appears to be the same as other areas of the public sector. The individual must pay their part.

Labour Manifesto

The Labour party have had some time to consider how they would begin again with the skills agenda after the major failed attempt at reform around the Diplomas. However, the snap election called by the Prime Minister has cut short those deliberations. Whether that is in the best interest of the country is for others to consider.

Labour agrees with Sainsbury that funding must be readdressed and they begin in an opposing position to the Conservatives around ‘who’ pays for education and training.

‘Labour would introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life.’ Labour Manifesto

This is a vision that places social need at the level of social responsibility. If we want skills as a society then we all play our part in paying for it - but it’s not the onus of the individual to take that risk (as the current loan systems or tuition fees do).

In regard to the development of new institutes of technology, the response is to consolidate our improving colleges:

‘Our skills and training sector has been held back by repeated reorganisation, which deprives providers, learners and employers of the consistency they need to assess quality. Labour would abandon Conservative plans to once again reinvent the wheel by building new technical colleges, redirecting the money to increase teacher numbers in the FE sector.’ Labour Manifesto

Labour also agrees with Sainsbury on the need for sustainable funding:

‘To implement the Sainsbury recommendations, we would correct historic neglect of the FE sector by giving the sector the investment in teachers and facilities it deserves to become a world-leading provider of adult and vocational education.’ Labour Manifesto

Funding would correct the post 16 disparity and so ‘funding for 16 to18-year-olds in line with Key Stage 4 baselines, while ensuring that the budget is distributed fairly between colleges and school sixth forms.’

Labour would also reintroduce regulation around teacher standards with professional qualifications being a requirement to teach. And, further, supporting those who teach and train in the private sector (‘vocational educators’ a term ATL uses in our ULF project for those who educate, train or develop those in the workplace) to attain those qualifications.

Conclusion

While there are some common ideas here around T levels, apprenticeships as a singularly important route and the apprenticeship levy, there are major differences both politically and educationally.

The Conservatives see individuals as bearing the cost and the risk of developing their skills and expertise. They see employers as determining what is needed, but they also see employers as needing to contribute via the apprenticeship levy. In turn, the state also plays a part in facilitating how individuals can access opportunities and ensuring that the education and training system is fit for purpose.

Labour sees society as bearing the cost of skill development (ending tuition fees, learner loans, reintroducing EMA) but also recognises that employers are a key stakeholder to engage with and that their financial contributions via the levy are a part of the new social contract around education and training.

Another clear difference is the positive role that Labour sees the Trade Unions as having in developing industrial strategies and policies around skills. Finally, the shape of the post 16 sector would appear to be more coherent and cohesive under Labour with its reluctance to develop new institutions to deliver T levels or sub-degree programmes. They also seek to consult on an integration of lifelong learning and degree level learning pathways.

A plague on both houses?

The key problem in both manifestos is on the singular notion that the broader set of vocational education and training qualifications and accreditations are not located in a clear space. The Conservatives assume that T levels will arise from the vocational ash of the ebacc. Labour assumes that an appeal to a broader school curriculum and a lifelong learning agenda will amend the wedge that the T levels will introduce.

Both parties, on this single issue, are, ironically, constructing the German problem of ‘transition.’

The German dual system has clear and coherent routes into employment (apprenticeship) or university with the latter being the most sought after, socially. However, those students who cannot make it on to either track ‘churn’ in the system without clear progression or ways out. But it has also been put that such incoherence may also be the result of learner aspirations and changes to the wider labour market - the low skilled or not recognised labour market (eg retail in Germany… the area Lord Sainsbury thought needed no ‘technical’ expertise). It is this incoherent educational space that the T levels and the ebacc / A levels are now unintentionally forging between them….and, what is more, which makes up the core of our FE provision. Why we should take this very seriously indeed is that in such incoherent spaces we may well find the greatest evidence of inequalities in our society.

Norman Crowther, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

Sponsored Video

#SkillsWorldLive Video: Will there be enough jobs in the green economy?

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page