Union leaders have broadly welcomed the government’s white paper on the reform of education, unveiled today.
The government has rejected calls to scrap A-Levels and GCSEs, as advocated by the Tomlinson report, but has introduced a series of work-based diplomas for 14- to 19-year olds.
Responding to education secretary Ruth Kelly’s announcement, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While it is disappointing that the Tomlinson proposals have not been fully adopted, the white paper does at least lay the foundation for an improved vocational approach, which represents a real challenge for business.”
“For years employers have been complaining that school leavers of all ages lack the vital skills to succeed in the workplace,” he added. “They will now have a much greater role to play, especially in providing a wider range of work placements for young people, and they must prove that they can deliver and make real improvements in areas they have been criticising for so long.”
The GMB union said the white paper provides an “undeniable boost” to vocational education, helping youngsters who do not want to follow an academic route to acquire skills earlier in life to prepare them for the world of work.
GMB general secretary, Kevin Curran, said: “This country has a growing skills gap in many areas of industry, and it is very encouraging that Labour has acknowledged that problem today with constructive proposals.
“At last vocational skills will be given the weight, prominence and value they deserve, and the many young people who have traditionally lost out will be able to get the best education for their needs, and the best jobs for their skills.”