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Skills-based courses to be made more “hands-on”


The Education Secretary Michael Gove will today announce a major review of vocational qualifications and skills-based courses for 14- to 19-year-olds in a bid to make them more "hands on".

The review will be led by Alison Wolf, professor of public sector management at King's College London and is intended to assess the way vocational courses are taught and how they can be enhanced to meet the needs of business.
It will also evaluate how skills-based courses fit into existing school league tables and whether an "official quality benchmark" should be devised to regulate qualifications such as BTECs, City & Guilds and OCR Nationals in areas ranging from construction and design to tourism and tourism and IT.
The review will likewise look at the age at which pupils are expected to undertake practical courses, implying that some children could start them earlier as an alternative to academic study.
The Department of Education told the BBC that the aim was to look at ways to "improve vocational education's organisation and responsiveness to a changing labour market, and to ensure vocational education is progressing young people to the next stage".
Many vocational courses at the moment were 'pseudo-academic', focusing on theory rather than the practical application skills, it told the Daily Telegraph, but the goal was to ensure that more students "got their hands dirty" by taking part in on-the-job training and practical courses provided by specially created Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have already backed plans for creating University Technical Colleges, the first since the 1950s, which would see students from 14 years of age onwards take courses in areas ranging from bricklaying, manufacturing and fashion alongside GCSEs in core subjects such as English and maths.
The first UTC, which will be sponsored and run by Aston University in Birmingham, is scheduled to open in 2012, but others are planned for Wolverhampton, Salford, Bradford, Leicester and Loughborough.
The coalition government is also backing the idea of Studio Schools, which would also see pupils take a mix of both practical and academic subjects. Six are due to open over the next two years.

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