Press release

Education Secretary Michael Gove announces review of 14 to 19 vocational education

Education Secretary Michael Gove announces review of 14 to 19 vocational education, to be carried out by Professor Alison Wolf.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced a major independent review of vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds, which is to be led by Professor Alison Wolf of King’s College London.

Mr Gove said that for too long vocational qualifications had not been properly valued and that a gap had been left in the country’s skills base as a result.

Professor Wolf will look at the organisation of vocational education and its responsiveness to a changing labour market, and consider ways to increase incentives for young people to participate. The review will also take explicit account of good practice in a selection of developed economies.

Professor Wolf will examine

  • institutional arrangements
  • funding mechanisms including arrangements for who bears the cost of qualifications
  • progression from vocational education to work, higher education and higher level training
  • the role of the third sector, private providers, employers and awarding bodies.

She is due to submit a final report in spring 2011, which will include recommendations on how vocational education can be improved.

Michael Gove, who today announced the review in a speech to the independent education foundation, Edge, said:

For many years our education system has failed properly to value practical education, choosing to give far greater emphasis to purely academic achievements. 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 this position does not continue and that in future we are able to meet the needs of our labour market.

To enable us to achieve this long-term aim, we are currently developing a new approach to qualifications, considering all routes which are available to young people, to ensure the qualifications they study for are rigorous, relevant and bear comparison with the best in the world.

Professor Wolf is highly experienced in this field and has all the credentials required to lead this review.

Professor Wolf said:

Our current arrangements for 14-19 education are highly bureaucratic and inflexible. They also make it very difficult to encourage excellence in anything which is not conventionally academic: writing about people doing things gets rewarded more than actually doing them.

Rigid systems are particularly undesirable at a time when the labour market and the economy are in a state of constant change. We need to make it possible for vocational education, and educators, to respond easily to the real requirements of the labour market. I hope this review will identify principles and institutions which promote this and help all young people to progress in the world of work, throughout their lives.

Lord Baker, the Chairman of Edge, said:

We welcome this review; it is high time that we are able to ensure that all young people have both choice and quality in their education allowing them to pursue their own individual path to success. This start must include high-level vocational courses, ones that are taught to high standards in high class institutions. One such example is the university technical colleges, which will recruit young people at 14 and allow them to study a highly regarded, technically oriented course in a specialist college. We look forward to seeing the results of the review and playing our part in changing the educational landscape for the better.

Professor Wolf will conduct a public call for evidence, which will be made by the end of September.

 Notes to editors

  1. Professor Wolf is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London. She specialises in the relationship between education and the labour market, and has particular interests in training and skills policy, and universities. She has been a specialist adviser to the House of Commons select committee on education and skills; is the Council Member for the UK on the Council of the United Nations University; writes widely for the national press and is a presenter for Analysis on BBC Radio 4.

  2. Edge is an independent education foundation dedicated to raising the stature of practical and vocational learning. Its chairman is Lord Baker, who held a number of senior positions in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, including Secretary of State for Education and Science when he introduced the National Curriculum, city technology colleges and grant-maintained schools. He became a member of the House of Lords in 1997. As co-founder of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, Lord Baker is leading the introduction of university technical colleges. He firmly believes that it is vital for our young people and our economy that students should have access to high-quality education combining academic, practical and vocational learning.

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Published 9 September 2010