Along with the changes in the way budget is allocated to schools (see post here) there are other changes that will affect the children’s education which at first glance means that vocational and technical training is to receive a huge injection of cash.

This funding will streamline courses available for students at 16 – 19 and provide some personal cash in the form of bursaries and grants direct to the students and improve opportunities for young people to develop more practical and vocational skills. (See this report from the BBC)

In an interview with Andrew Marr the chancellor, Phillip Hammond said that the lack of skills in our young people were one of the things that education needed to address. Mr Hammond said that we need “to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to obtain rewarding and skilled employment in the future.”

However, this may not be as good as it sounds. There has always been a huge disparity between the way in which the technical, and the academic, have been viewed. Sadly, the former always considered less important. But with the dwindling of technical skills as schools and policies have pushed the academic, and the struggle of the FE colleges to provide them due to funding being focused elsewhere, it’s noticeable throughout industry that this has created a huge skills shortfall. To the point that the difficulty for employers in finding skilled young people is hitting industry hard – and consequently revenues – so the government has admitted the need to refocus their attention.

The danger is that, in attempts to make these vocational courses as valued as academic A Level courses, they may have rigorous academic coursework attached to them. This is not what many youngsters need, especially those who find that higher level academic study is not for them, which is why they choose more practical subjects in the first place.

For example; many youngsters could excel at baking and cooking, building a house, mending an engine, but would fail miserably to commit that to paper. This has always been the set back for those more technically and practically minded, but in order to provide recognisable measurement this is usually how youngsters are tested – on paper as much as practically. If these new vocational qualifications are to be a success that issue needs addressing.

Another danger comes from our own parental attitudes to the courses the children choose. Many parents would rather steer their youngsters towards academic qualifications because in many circumstances they are rated more highly. But perhaps we need to acknowledge that success comes in many forms; there are lucrative careers to be had in the technical and practical and these skills are much needed in industry. Academic skills are just that; skills. And are no more valid than the skills needed to fix or build computers for example. There will always be a future in that.

As with all educational policies, they’re great in theory, but let’s wait and see what happens when these new plans come into practice and hope that they’re not made so academically rigorous as to negate the practicality of them.



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