From education to employment

To kick start FE News week-long debate on

Where I work and the area where my college is based, our schools perform below the national average. For over 50% of school leavers the academic route is not beneficial, and actually, you”re probably talking about 60% of our school-leavers who couldn”t really access the academic route.

My view is this: while public perception is very positive around academic qualifications, the reality of the situation is very different, hence the introduction of the new diplomas. If there weren”t such a need, then we wouldn”t be seeing the introduction of these new diplomas. What the new diplomas do is really place a greater emphasis on vocational training, which I think is a positive thing.

I do recognise the need for balance, of course. We are a tertiary college, and we offer both A-levels and vocational training, but we are seeing our vocational provision grow year on year, and actually, participation in the academic route, the A-level route, is actually quite static. Clearly, whilst perception may be one thing, the need, and the reality of the situation is actually very different.

From a student’s perspective, it is not that much of an issue; as it is for educationalists, as it is for parents. Of course, the A-level will always be the gold standard, but we have got to ask: “Who is it the gold standard for?”

Is it the gold standard for parents? Is it the gold standard for students? Is it the gold standard for employers? I would say that actually, it is not even the gold standard for employers.

It even applies to graduates coming out of university not having those core skills that businesses and employers actually need. I think it is less of an issue for students.

There are of course, now more routes into university, into higher education. You don”t need to follow an academic path to go into higher education, particularly with the introduction of foundation degrees.

Matt Atkinson, Principal, Cricklade College.

Tomorrow: Claire Parry of Sussex Downs College continues the debate exclusively on FE News

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