From education to employment

Reaction: Government responds to Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education

In response to Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education, commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove and published in March this year, the government has announced plans to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

The government yesterday announced plans to implement recommendations put forward in Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education.

Professor Wolf’s review, which was commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove and published in March this year, proposed a package of radical reforms designed to correct flaws in the system.

The report looked at institutional arrangements, progression from vocational education to work, HE and higher level training, funding mechanisms including structures determining who bears the cost of qualifications, and also the role of the third sector, private providers, employers and awarding bodies.

In response to the review, Mr Gove, said the government will:

– ensure all young people study maths and English to age 18 until they get a good qualification in those subjects.

– reform league tables and funding rules to remove the perverse incentives that have devalued vocational education. This will mean more young people take the high-quality qualifications that lead to university and good jobs.

– consult with employers, schools, colleges, universities and Ofqual this summer to define the criteria that the best vocational qualifications must meet.

– introduce a new measure to assess the performance of both higher and lower attaining pupils. This will ensure schools and college do not focus only on students on the C/D grade borderline.

– Apprenticeships will be simplified and made easier to offer support to 14 to 16 year olds enrolling in colleges, so they can benefit from the excellent vocational training.

– offer training to maths teachers so they continue improving and learning once qualified.

The government’s response to Professor Wolf’s review has been welcomed by businesses, academic institutions and vocational learning providers.

Commenting on the government’s response, Katja Hall, chief policy director of the CBI, said: “We’ve been calling on successive governments to do more to tackle youth unemployment by making it easier for businesses to offer more work experience placements and apprenticeships.

“These are effective ways for young people to get the skills they need to kick-start their careers and CBI is delighted that many companies are getting involved. However, reducing levels of youth unemployment will require a strong private sector recovery, so the government must ensure that it creates the right conditions for firms to hire.”

The Association of Teachers & Lecturers (ATL) also welcomed the view that Apprenticeships should be less occupationally focused, and contain more general education.

However, it questioned why the government perseveres in promoting and subsidising private employers.

ATL fully supports Professor Wolf’s view that young people should not be pushed into irrevocable choices at age 14, but expressed concerns that the government’s promotion of university technical colleges and annihilation of the Connexions careers service risks exactly this.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “The English Baccalaureate, the government’s Victorian vision for education, will isolate and demoralise less-academic students.

“Cutting financial support for 16-19 year-olds will make it harder for many young people to stay in education. Education and learning needs to be central to the government’s plans for young people, but they must be accessible for all.”

The Association of Colleges (AoC) was pleased by the government’s positive and constructive response to Professor’s Wolf’s review.

Deborah Ribchester, AoC’s senior policy manager, said: “AoC appreciates the importance of English and Mathematics in ensuring young people have successful careers and fulfilling lives.”

AoC supports the view that for some young people between 16 and 19, GCSE qualifications may not be suitable, and AoC is seeking to help the government identify possible alternatives that will give this group the core skills they need to succeed.

It also welcomed proposals to recognise Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status within schools, and engage more employers, in particular SMEs, in the Apprenticeship programme.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) echoed appreciation for the government’s agreement that teachers with QTLS will be able to teach in schools alongside their peers, professional school teachers.

Toni Fazaeli, IfL’s chief executive, said: “The government’s confirmation that it will legislate for holders of QTLS to teach in schools is a major victory for further education teachers, who have long sought parity with their school sector colleagues, and will improve the career opportunities for those with QTLS status.”

Also commenting on the government’s response, Glenys Stacey, chief executive of qualifications regulator Ofqual, said: “We welcome the government’s focus on vocational qualifications for young people and we look forward to working with Ministers to help them to achieve their policy objectives for qualifications.

“Reforming qualifications can be risky. As the independent regulator, Ofqual has a critical role to play in bringing regulatory discipline to the reform programme, so that past problems are not repeated.”

Aastha Gill

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