From education to employment

Howard Emphasises Importance of Skills

The Conservative Leader Michael Howard turned his focus to Further Education today in a campaign speech in Nottingham. Recognising that Further Education has long been overlooked, he blamed truancy on inflexible school subjects and hinted at the use of vocational learning in schools. Could he be listening to the positive response from the Tomlinson Report?

Is this the same party that wants to scrap the LSC, the ALI and Connexions? Today, Howard pledged that if elected to power, he will trigger a dynamic programme to boost vocational skills education in the countrys schools and colleges.

Mr Howard said it was time to end the snobbery associated with an academic education, by raising the status of practical skills learning. Insisting that the success of Britains social and economic future rests on the quality of its education system, he said: “We have over-valued the importance of an academic qualification at the expense of a technical or practical skill. It is not a mistake that countries like Germany have made.”

Pointing out that improving skills education would relieve the boredom for non-academic students, Mr Howard added: “I believe this is one of the root causes of truancy. If youngsters know that they are never going to make it to university cannot learn a practical skill, should we be surprised when they get angry and frustrated with an inflexible academic curriculum which seems only to heighten their failings?

“Its time to end that snobbery. Further education should no longer be the forgotten garden of the education world. A skilled craftsman, an accomplished electrician, a capable plumber – these are the people our society needs.”

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Under the Conservative action programme, a network of skills super colleges will be set up, and provided with extra funding; while 14 and 15 year olds will be able to start out on a vocational path from school moving onto specialist courses at further education colleges.

The Conservatives will have hit on a positive note in looking to implement a Tomlinson style Vocational education programme in schools, but they do not mention a dramatic shake up that the essence of the Tomlinson report calls for. It seems that all of the political parties think that Further Education is only delivered within Colleges. What about the Training Providers and the Sixth Form provision? How will high quality delivery be administered if the ALI is to be scrapped? Who is going to fund FE if the LSC is scrapped as well? We will endeavour to gain these answers in the coming weeks. At least FE is really becoming a top political agenda… and long may it continue after the election.

Gavin OMeara

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