Launching our new report with the Campaign for Learning

By: Andrew Gladstone-Heighton

Policy Leader

Friday 17 March 2017

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Together with the Campaign for Learning, we launched our new report: “Reforming Technical and Professional Education: Why should it work this time?” in Westminster yesterday, in a roundtable session that was attended by further education industry bodies, colleges and employers.

In launching the paper, the author Mick Fletcher set out nine recommendations, to ‘promote technical education as a strong and prestigious alternative to the academic route, and to succeed where earlier attempts have failed’. The recommendations for the government are:

  1. Develop a more convincing definition of technical and professional education and set it in the context of a plan that relates to all types of occupation. In addition it should define and use more carefully the terms STEM, technical education and further education.
  2. Be clearer about where new recruits to technical education - aged 16-17 and 18 and over - are to come from but not seek to achieve such an increase by abolishing applied general qualifications.
  3. Not proceed with the proposals to remove competition from the market for vocational qualifications.
  4. Set out clear proposals on how plans for the devolution of skills in terms of planning and funding, revenue and capital will operate in respect of technical and professional education. More specifically, the government should ask itself whether technical and professional education up to level 3 can thrive in a system where some is funded via the Adult Education budget and devolved while other aspects are funded via fee loans.
  5. Urgently review the proposed powers of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, with a view to removing potential duplication with the role of other agencies with respect to apprenticeships and also in relation to higher level technical education and especially with the future Office for Students.
  6. Develop proposals for substantial vocational college based routes not defined as technical education at levels 1 and 2, especially for 16-18 year olds.
  7. Develop a single integrated approach to provision at level 4 and above that sees higher level technical and professional education as part of the higher education system and regulated by the Office for Students.
  8. Introduce maintenance loans for all those aged 18+ who wish to enter full-time and part-time level 4+ programmes but are unable to access support from an employer; not just those at Institutes of Technology and National Colleges.
  9. Offer maintenance loans to 19-23 year olds seeking a first level 3 through a technical education programme at level 3 who are unable to access support from an employer.
  10. The select audience drawn from across the further and higher education sector were broadly in agreement with these recommendations, and  discussed the implications of these and the status of technical Education for young people and adults.

The key themes that emerged in the roundtable session, which was held under Chatham House Rule, were:

  • the need for a commonly agreed and communicated purpose of technical education – including alignment with international definitions of vocational learning  
  • support for choice of awarding organisation for providers when they’re looking to deliver a qualification 
  • the need to empower adults to choose and spend funding on learning relevant to their skills and employment, throughout their career using a lifelong learning account or similar
  • the need for alternatives to GCSE maths and English to be recognised as relevant to the workplace and employer
  • a request that the Department for Education works with employers to prepare them for the volume of work placements needed under the Post-16 Skills Plan.

We look forward to discussing these and the points raised in the report with key decision makers and stakeholders over the next few months, to help inform thinking around the implementation of the Post-16 Skills Plan and provide a robust and fit-for-purpose technical education route for all learners.

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