We must stop the bias against vocational subjects and teachers says report


The National Skills Commission has just published a report Teacher Training in Vocational Education that finds that there is a bias in 14-19 education in favour of academic subjects and teachers and against vocational subjects and teachers. It says that we cannot continue to treat vocational as inferior or second class relative to academic, as it damages learning opportunities for young people. Vocational teachers have less professional status than their academic peers and the key recommendation of this inquiry was that there should be much greater convergence between the separate training regimes for academic teachers in schools and vocational teachers in further education colleges and in the post compulsory sector, to achieve a universal teaching status across 14-19 education.  Sir Mike Tomlinson, Chair of the Skills Commission inquiry, commented, “Teachers of vocational courses in schools are not currently required to have what we believe is essential experience or expertise in the area that they’re teaching. At the moment, those who have vast amounts of practical experience but aren’t qualified as teachers can only be employed as instructors on a much lower salary in schools.  If we want the next generation of learners to have the quality of education they deserve and for parents and pupils to be confident that vocational education is right for them, the Commission believes that we have to ensure we value the experience of those wanting to enter vocational teaching.’’

There was widespread criticism of Careers education information advice and guidance and the report found a particularly acute deficit in vocational education. The Commission believes that reforms to teacher training must include reforms to CEG/IAG within initial teacher training  and to CEG/IAG provided by careers professionals -‘Teaching excellence in vocational education must be  accompanied by  excellence in CEG/IAG’ ,it stated.  Anther recommendation was the need for extensive research into the methods currently used to instruct vocational teaching, formalising the training of teaching mentors.  Peter Mitchell, Education Director of Edge, the independent education foundation which sponsored the inquiry, said:  “There are some harsh economic times ahead for the UK, and now more than ever it is vital that we are equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed – this must start with supporting our teachers. There are many paths to success and as a result there should be no poor relations in the education system. Practical and vocational subjects are just as important as academic and teachers of each should receive the same recognition.   “I hope that the Government sees the validity in this report and takes the recommendations it makes very seriously – if raising the participation age is to work across the board, we need teachers to be working together in harmony and receiving mutual respect in their profession.”  What is surely also required are better vocational offerings and routes for the 14-18 cohort, with far too many of our young people palmed off with qualifications that are not rated by employers, nor by the young people themselves. They are being “churned”, some experts say, through basic qualifications that lead in no particular direction but avoid the authorities having to classify them as “Neets” — ie not in education, employment or training.

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