Charity that promotes ‘learning by doing’ wants changes to the training and education system

Some concerns that reforms to GCSEs ignores vocational skills


The Edge Foundation, which champions technical, practical and vocational learning,  underpinned by  the mantra “learn by doing”,  launched, in Parliament this week, the publication  ‘Six Steps for Change’- six policy steps which aim to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning in the UK. The charity reminds us that there are many pathways to success.

Edge wants an education and training system which helps young people find out what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing; rewards and recognises individual success in all its forms, not just in exams; helps people choose paths that support their talents and ambitions; shows how education creates the knowledge, skills and talents needed by the UK economy;

Edge says that ‘with these aims in mind, we want politicians, practitioners and the public to:

recognise that there are many talents and paths to success

ensure that “learning by doing” is valued equally with academic learning

provide technical, practical and vocational learning as an integral and valued part of every young person’s education and as a recognised route to success

from the age of 14, give young people a choice of learning experiences and pathways based on their motivation, talents and career aspirations

ensure that the technical, practical and vocational education and qualifications offered in schools, FE and HE are high quality and recognised by employers

ensure all young people, whatever their different abilities and interests, leave the system with confidence, ambition and the skills to succeed and the skills the economy needs’


Among its practical recommendations -under Step Four… ‘From the age of 14 give young people a choice of learning experiences..’ is that young people should have access to impartial careers information, advice and guidance from the age of 11 so they can make informed choices at 14+’

At the launch there was much praise for John Hayes, the recently reshuffled Skills Minister, but there were also concerns that ,with his departure , the vocational element of learning might not  now get the attention it deserved, despite its growing importance.

Hayes was responsible for  launching the National Careers Service which covers advice at 18+ ,with other careers advice for young people, now the responsibility of schools, although  they have no ring fenced budget for this provision.  The new National Careers Service, launched in April 2012, offers a single point of access to online and helpline support but is focused  specifically on young adults. There are real concerns that young people, particularly the most disadvantaged, who need face to face professional advice and mentoring will , because of cost considerations, not get access to such advice,   undermining the drive for greater social mobility.

Jan Hodges, CEO of the Edge Foundation, said on BBC 2 Newsnight, on 17 September, that  she   understands the need for GCSE  reform but   said that the reforms do not go far enough.  Pupils need   access to vocational options and applied skills with some means of assessment and recognition of their achievements, not just their academic achievements .The proposed EBacc (or is it EBC ?) focuses exclusively on academic subjects.   We need  a more  fundamental debate and discussion about what  outcomes we need  from our  education and assessment  systems.In her view, we   haven’t, as yet, struck the right balance between academic knowledge and   vocational skills. Her message was reiterated by Lord Baker, the former Tory Education Secretary, who introduced GCSEs (although the qualification was conceived by Keith Joseph).  Lord Baker, chairman of the Edge Foundation, advocates learning by doing  and helped launch, with the late Lord Dearing, University Technical Colleges supported by universities and local employers.

Download the full Six Steps for Change report:


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