Independent review of vocational qualifications announced

The CBI has welcomed the announcement of an independent review of vocational qualifications for 14- to 19-year olds – but teaching unions have labelled it as “a naked attempt to advance the flawed policy of academies and free schools”.

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday announced that he has asked Professor Alison Wolf, an expert on education and skills from Kings’ College London, to review the vocational qualification system to ensure it meets the changing needs of the labour market .

Vocational qualifications include Btecs, City & Guilds and OCR Nationals, and cover subjects ranging from IT and construction skills, to dance, hospitality and catering.

“For many years our education system has failed to value practical education, choosing to give far greater emphasis to purely academic achievements,” Gove said. “This has left a gap in the country’s skills base and, as a result, a shortage of appropriately trained and educated young people to fulfil the needs of our employers. To help support our economic recovery, we need to ensure that this position does not continue and in future we are able to meet the needs of our labour market.”

Susan Anderson, director for education and skills at the CBI, said the employers’ body welcomed Wolf’s review. “Vocational qualifications should be highly regarded and respected by young people, parents and businesses alike,” she said. “This review needs to draw on the best practical teaching that already exists to ensure standards can be raised across the board.”

But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teaching union, said it was unacceptable for the Government to argue “for ideological reasons” that existing vocational qualifications are flawed.

“The current raft of vocational curricula and qualifications has been developed by employers for employers,” he said. “Existing vocational qualifications have been robustly developed, rigorously evaluated and are independently regulated… The sad truth of Mr Gove’s speech is that the review of vocational education is a naked attempt to advance the flawed policy of academies and free schools.”

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