Reform of 14-19 learning has been a leading government policy objective for some time. David Blunkett signalled Government interest in this area in a keynote speech back in early 2000. Recent developments also stem from the series of Tomlinson Reviews in 2003/4 and the February 2005 Education and Skills White Paper.
Much of the interest in 14-19 reform has focused on the introduction of Diplomas. Behind the qualification system however, a new planning, funding and delivery system is taking shape intended to ensure that learning and support is built as close as possible around the needs of young people.
The aim of the new system is to provide learning routes for every young person, allowing them to make the most of their opportunities, participate and achieve. With the introduction of this new system comes a long list of governmental and independent bodies designed to run, monitor and assess the system. With so many bodies involved, it could be easy to get confused about what responsibilities sit where. It is important therefore, that the scope and power of these bodies is clearly defined if the system is to work efficiently and to the benefit of each and every learner.
Over the past few years several independent bodies that have been established. The Joint Advisory Committee for Qualifications Approval (JACQA) for example is the body that advises the Secretary of State on which 14-19 qualifications should be funded in England.
Ofqual is the new independent regulator of qualifications and exams in England that is taking over the regulatory functions of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Ofqual is expected to provide an annual Report to Parliament setting out how the qualification and exam system is performing in England and the progress being made by learners. During 2009-2010, the QCA becomes the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA). QCDA will have responsibility for accrediting qualifications onto the Qualification and Credit Framework.
It is vital that these bodies remain truly independent if a transparent and successful education system is to be achieved. JACQA for example must advise according to the merits of each individual qualification and not according to government ethos. Similarly Ofqual must look into the exam system in its entirety including the work of the awarding bodies, but also the system as a whole.
There must also be clear communication with schools, colleges, universities and employers to ensure they are continually updated on developments. If all the government bodies involved in the 14-19 reform succeed in having clear remits, objectives and communications, the UK education system can continue be world-leading in educational development.
Jerry Jarvis is managing director of Edexcel, the UK’s largest awarding body