Alison Wolf's review into vocational education, commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove, analyses how students between 14 to 16 years old are encouraged to undertake vocational courses that eventually lead them to a "dead end".
The review looks at institutional arrangements, funding mechanisms including arrangements for who bears the cost of qualifications, progression from vocational education to work, higher education and higher level training, the role of the third sector, private providers, employers and awarding bodies.
The report says that around 300,000 to 400,000 students between the age group of 16 to 19 years old are on courses that do not lead them to higher education or good jobs.
Professor Wolf calls for the system to be "honest" so that young people are not pushed to make decisions that could be unproductive for their future prospects.
"The system is complex, expensive and counterproductive," she warned.
Recommendations in the review include an overhaul of the system to simplify the process and remove the incentives that encourage learning providers to enter students for low-quality qualifications.
The review also urges that working towards a 'C' at Maths and English GCSE be made compulsory for all 16 to 19 year olds who have not already achieved this.
Mr Gove has already accepted four of Professor Wolf's recommendations:
- To allow qualified further education lecturers to teach in school classrooms on the same basis as qualified school teachers.
- To clarify the rules on allowing industry professionals to teach in schools.
- To allow any vocational qualification offered by a regulated awarding body to be taken by 14 to 19 year olds.
- To allow established high-quality vocational qualifications that have not been accredited to be offered in schools and colleges in September 2011.
The recommendations have also been welcomed by businesses, academic institutions and vocational learning providers.
Martin Doel, Association of Colleges (AoC) chief executive, said: "We particularly welcome Professor Wolf's recommendation that colleges can play a leading role in vocational education for students from the age of 14 and the recognition that lecturers in colleges have much expertise to offer young people."
AoC also appreciates the importance of English and Mathematics in ensuring young people have successful careers.
However, the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) is concerned about the pre-Apprenticeship issues which it feels urgently need to be addressed if Professor Wolf's vision is to be realised.
Graham Hoyle, ALP's chief executive, said: "There are undoubtedly serious issues regarding the delivery of foundation learning , young people leaving school at 16 are not ready to start a full apprenticeship and there is a requirement for a suite of flexible provision to get them to the ladder to an Apprenticeship."
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) also acknowledges this recommendation for contributing to the strengthening of Apprenticeships.
NIACE also appreciates Mr Gove's acceptance to allow qualified FE lecturers to teach in school classrooms on the same basis as qualified school teachers.
Peter Lavender, deputy chief executive at NIACE, said: "For a long time we have wanted to see parity of esteem between school teachers, with qualified teacher status and further education teachers."
Echoing this recommendation, the Institute for Learning (IfL) urged the government to accept Professor Wolf's call for FE teachers with Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status be recognised to teach in schools.
Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of IfL, said: "This is a red letter day for young people who in future should be able to benefit from professional further education teachers with QTLS being able to teach alongside those with QTS in schools."
The 157 Group has also appreciated several of the recommendations, and looks forward to working constructively to ensure the main concepts are implemented.
Lynne Sedgmore, chief director of 157 Group, said: "We particularly welcome the recommendation that funding should follow the learner.
"We agree with the recommendations that institutions should be free to offer any qualifications they please from a regulated awarding body, and encouraged to include non-qualifications-based activity; and that young people should have more flexibility in terms of which programme level or type of qualification they can pursue."
The Pearson Group also welcomes the review. Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said: "The review identifies a variation in quality and suggests that only rigorous vocational qualifications which add real value to young people's education should be recognised in school league tables going forward. This is a goal we fully support and look forward to working with the Government to deliver."