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Vocational GCSEs need employer involvement, says NTO chief


New plans for vocational GCSEs announced by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett last week need to draw heavily on input from employers.
Andy Powell
So says NTO National Council chief executive Andy Powell, responding to the announcement on Tuesday. Although supportive of the qualifications in principle, Powell critisised the lack of involvement of employers in developing plans for the new qualifications, which will come on stream over the next two years. Although the Education Secretary called upon businesses to back the new drive last week, Powell warned the Secretary of State that there was some way to go in establishing a clear path between employers and the government to communicate on this type of issue: "The very fact, however, that this important announcement did not involve or set out a role for employers working through NTOs demonstrates how far we have to go to shift the rhetoric of Whitehall to the reality of the workplace. Good idease depend upon the commitment of others, in this case teachers and employers, to make them happen."

He added: "A key reason for Britain's historical weakness in vocational education and training is because insufficient attention has been given to structures and processes that will ensure industry can meaningfully be involved. The culture of Whitehall knowing best has to be replaced by a new partnership between employers, parents and is regrettable that the plans announced do not spell out clearly how this will happen or how employment sectors will be involved in ensuring the Vocational GCSEs meet real economic needs".

Chair of the NTO National Council Garry Hawkes has set out a four point plan for establishing proper involvement of businesses in developing the new qualifications and planned changes to Modern Apprenticeships. The plan proposes:

  • The establishment of an Employer Task Group to advice on the new qualifications. Membership would compose representatives of a cross-section of industry sectors.
  • Real work placements for the majority of the 14-16 year olds likely to work towards the qualifications, to ensure relevance.
  • A commitment from NTOs to work with the government to increase the number of apprenticeships available.
  • The responsibility for the qualifications programme to lie with Learning and Skills Councils, working with Local Education Authorities.


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