From education to employment

FE sector responds to TechBacc plans

The FE sector has broadly welcomed plans for a “technical baccalaureate” as a step in the right direction to help bring vocational learning alongside academic qualifications.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock yesterday unveiled plans to introduce the performance measure for 16-19 year olds from September 2014.

“The TechBacc will be a mark of achievement for young people who successfully study three key elements – a rigorous high-quality vocational course, maths and literacy,” he said.

“We are being clear to our young people about the skills they need to succeed and get good jobs. We want an education system in which everyone can reach their potential. Our reforms to post-16 qualifications, including the introduction of the new TechBacc will do that. They will incentivise the development of high-quality courses and incentivise schools and colleges to offer the courses that get young people on in life.

“We expect all bright students who want to go into technically skilled jobs or apprenticeships to aim for the TechBacc.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the decision to insert the TechBacc into existing league tables, which it said will help put vocational subjects on a par with academic A-levels.

Neil Carberry, CBI’s director for employment and skills, said: “Business prefers this approach, rather than creating another new qualification which would struggle for recognition like the Diploma did. We hope this will prove to be a staging point towards our ultimate goal of rigorous vocational A-levels.

“A successful TeccBacc would create a lever for industry to improve the quality of vocational courses, including practical experience and key behaviours young people need to be successful.”

The Association of Colleges (AoC) also agreed that the new performance measure goes a step further in recognising the value of a rigorous, high quality vocational route.

Deborah Ribchester, AoC’s senior policy manager, said: “It will be important that the Tech Bacc is viewed by both employers and all higher education institutions as a recognised route to progression.

“In line with recommendations in both the Wolf Review and the recent McLoughlin Review, which noted that in addition to demanding qualifications, successful vocational education and training also requires occupationally expert teachers and industry standard facilities, we believe our member colleges are ideally suited to delivering the proposed Tech Bacc.”

However, Ribchester warned that the proposed timetable for its roll out could be too tight, meaning that some of the three key elements might not be finalised in time.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) also welcomed the move, but said it was concerned that the Tech Bacc will not exist as a qualification in its own right.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted explained: “It is worrying that vocational and academic qualifications will continue to be separate.

“All 16-19 year-olds need vocational skills irrespective of what subjects they are studying, and there should be opportunities for students to move between the two paths, as happens in European systems. Young people need the option of being able to study both vocational and academic subjects.

“The new Traineeships need to create a clear progression to the Tech Bacc and schools and colleges should have access to specialist careers advice and guidance to support young people. If they are to be taken seriously, any new measures would need to be allocated UCAS points so that students have the option to go into employment or higher education, creating parity with those taking A-levels.

“Sadly, it is the old story of trying to make the education system do what the labour market and employers should be doing anyway. Once again this looks like policy making on the hoof.”

Natalie Thornhill

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