Wants a great debate on the future of Vocational Education

Likes UTCs and the  BTEC

Warns about lack of good Apprenticeships for Young People


Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg in his 2 November lecture praised the Edge Foundation saying that few have done so much to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational education. He praised,  in particular, the Foundations role in support of  the studio schools movement.

Education   is important, he said, for  personal development;,for cultural enrichment ,to enable people to be good citizens  but  it is also ‘an important tool for social justice and social mobility and, of course , it must help people get jobs.

Having delivered an impassioned defence of the last Governments record in education (Twigg had been a schools Minister) he identified three main immediate challenges ahead:


Delivering high status, rigorous pathways in vocational education


Addressing the Literacy and Numeracy levels post 16, which obstruct personal development and act as a barrier to economic progress


And fostering high class and high status institutions- such as the UTCs that are striving to become the exemplar model – in vocational education

On pathways and robustness, Twigg championed the BTEC qualification, as opposed to GNVQ (similar to HE Minister  David Willetts on this issue ).  He said “ Many in the field tell me that rigorous and work based vocational qualifications- such as the BTEC- motivate young people to stay in education and make progress as a result. Strengthening the evidence base for making this case will be important for Edge and others for the argument to be successful. My instincts are that Edge is right on this but I will make an evidence based judgement on this.”

On apprenticeships he said that according to The Guardian, fewer than 7% of the new places for the Academic Year 2010-11 have gone to 16- 18 year olds. The number of new apprentices under 25 accounted for just 16% of the figures for this year. That’s just 1 in 6 new apprentices at a time when youth unemployment is almost one million. Within the Government’s own defined target sectors, modest increases can be seen in construction, engineering, planning and the built environment. I welcome these increases, while remaining concerned about the lack of apprenticeships for young people.   He warned that ‘Apprenticeships risk becoming a tainted brand unless rigour is applied.” He said “ I want Apprenticeships to be seen as the Gold Standard of post-16 Vocational Education. For parents to be as proud of their child securing a top apprenticeship as they are of their child going to university.”

On the Literacy Challenge Twigg said ‘As Professor Wolf notes ‘English and Maths GCSE (at grades A*-C) are fundamental to young people’s employment and education prospects. Yet less than 50% of students have both at the end of Key Stage 4 (age 15/16); and at age 18 the figure is still below 50%. Only 4% of the cohort achieve this key credential during their 16-18 education.’ So,there should now be a focus on Literacy and Numeracy from the age of 16.

Twigg welcomed the progress on UTCs, an initiative launched by the last Government. He added ‘ I want to make the argument for a Technical Baccalaureate. It cannot be right that where UTCs offer high value qualifications- enabling educational progression and developing a workforce that meets the needs of a new economy, that such qualifications are not recognised.” The Baccalaureate would provide valuable recognition for hands on technical and vocational subjects as well as academic achievement.

“Engaging pathways for all”-2nd Annual Edge Lecture, November 2nd, 2011 Stephen Twigg MP, Shadow Education Secretary

Note:Edge champions technical, practical and vocational learning and  seeks to demonstrate how it leads to inventive, rewarding careers. It supports a Technical Baccalaureate. The Edge Foundation is Chaired by Lord Baker who has championed University Technical Colleges.

Note 2. There was an Adjournment debate in the Commons on  2 November on UTCs

Hansard 2 Nov


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