The status, value and importance of vocational/technical education has received a tremendous boost with the passing of an amendment to the government’s further and technical education bill. This amendment will ‘force’ schools to give FE colleges and apprenticeship providers access to their pupils, via careers guidance.
Schools, including both LA-maintained and academies, will now be required to prepare and publish a policy statement setting out the circumstances in which providers of technical/vocational education will be given access to their pupils aged 13-18.
This is a great step in raising the profile of technical/vocational education. The government has previously announced its intention to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 – but this target has been greatly hampered by a lack of vocational awareness within schools.
It is fair to say that technical/vocational qualifications are not placed on an equal footing with the more traditional GCSE/AS/A level pathways. Schools with sixth forms have been accused of tailoring their careers guidance policy towards student retention, rather than the best route for the individual student. This bias can have a tremendous impact on the future of any young person affected, by limiting their visible, and therefore knowable pathways. Senior Labour peer Lord Hunt commented that head teachers were, “ingenious at finding a way round things if they do not want something to happen” – all very worrying.
The skills minister, Robert Halfon, stated last month that good quality advice and guidance on apprenticeships and vocational skills in schools was “very rare”, and said he was considering more incentives for schools to promote other routes and tougher Ofsted guidance to combat the problem.
Shadow education minister Lord Watson has also warned that apprenticeships faced “something of an image problem” among 16 to 18-year-olds.
Here at CASCAID, we take the provision of accurate qualification and career option information very seriously, and this includes waving the flag for vocation/technical qualifications.
We feature extensive apprenticeship vacancy and Further Education course finder functionality in our careers guidance platforms. We also provide up-to-date information about the latest vocational/technical qualifications e.g. BTEC, City & Guilds and Cambridge Technicals. These are all linked to the relevant careers, creating an awareness of these new pathways that otherwise would remain hidden, buried beneath this A level/GCSE information bias.