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Vocational study to become part of education from 14


Vocational study is set to become a key part of education from the age of 14 upwards in England, if new plans announced by the government today are a success.

David BlunkettEducation and Employment Secretary David Blunkett unveiled the plans, which will allow students from the age of 14 to follow a vocational route of study in the form of Vocational GCSEs, still taught at school, but with work-based learning an option alongside. The aim is that on completing their qualifications, 16 year-olds will be able to move either to a work-based Modern Apprenticeship (a place will be made available automatically to those who achieve a defined standard at GCSE level) or to vocational or academic A Level courses. The plans will bring England into line with other European countries such as Germany by bringing a greater emphasis on vocational study for those under the age of 16.

The government sees the plans as having a crucial role to play in helping to address skills shortages across the board, by allowing young people to develop profiency in technical and craft-based skills at a younger age. It has set aside a total of £38 million to support the introduction of the new qualifications over the next two years. The money will be spent on funding part-time placements with FE colleges, training providers or at work for young people, extra training for teachers, equipment and travel grants for young people and support for schools to develop specialist courses in particular subject areas.

Mr Blunkett appealed to business people to back the new drive and play their part in taking on young people who wanted to follow the vocational route – and to work with schools and colleges to make the drive a success.

Speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Mr Blunkett said:

“The neglect of vocational and technical education has been a British disease. We have made substantial progress in developing better opportunities for vocational education, apprenticeships and practical work experience for young people, but we want to go further still. The Government is determined that young people who want a career based on vocational and technical skills should be able to choose predominantly vocational programmes of study from age 14, including progression to an apprenticeship at age 16. We will strengthen and clarify the vocational pathways available for 14 to 16 year olds so that this can happen. I appeal today to business people to back us in that endeavour, to take young people on as apprentices and to work with schools and colleges to bring vocational education into the mainstream where it belongs.

“For those who want to progress directly from school into an apprenticeship at age 16, the learning that they already have done within their vocational GCSEs will be directly relevant, providing a sound foundation for the further development of their skills, knowledge and understanding in their apprenticeship programmes. In doing so, new vocational GCSEs and A-levels, and reformed Modern Apprenticeships, will raise the standards and status of vocational study and training - and draw together the worlds of education and work in ways that have never before been achieved.“

Mr Blunkett said he considered that vocational routes of study had been neglected in Britain since the war, and that this was a failure other countries like Germany had not made. The Germans operate a system where there are separate schools for those wishing to take a technical route in preference to an academic route at the age of 11. Students attending German 'Hauptschulen' or 'Realschulen' can leave at 15/16 and then enrol part-time in vocational school combined with study until 18, leaving with certification in a particular area of work, or attend the 'Gymnasium' and study towards the Abitur (A Level equivilent), following a traditional academic route. Realschule students can choose to move to a Gynasium at 16.

Mr Blunkett added that the government wanted to see all young people in training enter Foundation and Advanced Modern Apprenticeships, or pre-apprenticeship programmes from September 2002.


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