Destination unknown

By: Andrew Gladstone-Heighton

Policy Leader

Wednesday 18 October 2017


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There was a lot of talk at the Conservative Party Conference about the ‘skills revolution’; largely centred on promises of greater degree level apprenticeship opportunities for teachers. This, along with raising the profile of apprenticeships and ‘gold standard’ T-level technical qualifications, are part of the government’s plan to raise the esteem of technical education. 

These are welcome announcements from the government, but in order to create a true parity of esteem, we need to go much further in promoting, and embedding, technical opportunities in mainstream learning from an early age.

Principle among the steps that need to be taken is the publication of further details on the latest criteria that technical education qualifications will have to adhere to beyond 2019.

The lack of clarity means that we can’t plan for future cohorts of would-be technical learners, nor ensure readiness of learners looking to move into technical education options post-16. Once the Department for Education has confirmed this information, we’ll have the clarity needed to make an alternative curriculum to support learners to these destinations.

Data published around the same time of the conference served to shed light on the details of these possible destinations, and it is cause for some concern. The government’s apprenticeship service statistics up to August 2017 is ‘experimental’ data showing the number of commitments by employers to take on apprenticeships since May. The data shows that out of the 34,700 “commitments” to take on an apprentice, only 7,300 (21%) are for 16-19 apprenticeships. This is a worrying statistic, although I am told by civil servants that they see this as an outcome of putting employers in charge.

I certainly hope that the Levy system will consider applying some measurable tactics which will ensure more apprenticeship opportunities are made available to younger people. This will remain one of the destinations available to learners in the government’s vision of the technical education sector, however, with employers in charge, someone needs accept the responsibility of ensuring that younger people get a look in. 

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