About Conservative Home

Conservative Home's debate blogs

Conservative Home's reference blogs

How is David Cameron doing?

Conservative blogs

test

Contributors test

« Thomas Bridge: Foreign permanent residents to clear through EU immigration | Main | Mark Wadsworth: A House of Lords representing local government »

Comments

Mark Wadsworth

YES - this looks like a move in the general direction of apprenticeships, so much to be welcomed.

The only political risk is that Nulab put up this pretence that everybody can become a star, a Premier League footballer, an TV presenter, run their own website and so on, hence the plethora of meaningless university degrees, it's all a pretence; we'll just end up with loads of unemployed graduates, who would otherswise be doing something sensible and practical.

In the real world, it doesn't work like that. We need bus drivers and shelf stackers, only there's not much political capital to made by reminding people of this rather mundane truth.

Tom

YES

If you look at all the billions New Labour has poured into education in the last 9 years its all been aimed at trying to turn every child into some middle-class ideal, with a 2:2 degree and a bright future working for an insurance company, despite the fact that we long ago reached the point where any child who truly wants to go to university was able to.
We have a situation now where huge numbers of people are graduating from university with degrees in subjects like media studies, or sociology, or english which have no direct relevance to a particular career and no idea of what they want to do with their life. At the same time we have a massive skills shortage in what used to be called the trades - building, plumbing, electricians, etc - to the point that the economy needs massive numbers of EU workers in these areas just to keep going.
Whats needed is a 're-balancing' (to use NuLabs favourite buzzword) of the higher education budget away from useless degrees for the middle-classes and towards decent further education, including vocational, for kids who aren't academic by nature and are leaving school at 16.

Keith

A lot of the vocational courses offered in the new Universities are designed to encourage students to enroll so that they can obtain the fee money they need to stay afloat. THES identified last week a funding gap that could mean the bankruptcy (financial as opposed to educational, but in my mind one in the same) of some institutions.

What is needed is a bottum-up review of education to focus on:

1. Establishing literacy in primary education.

2. A move back to quantative as opposed to purely qualitative examination with a significant emphasis on final examination and not "continual assessment" through coursework. Where coursework is a factor the emphasis for progression should be on "first time passes" of modules which is exactly what employers look at when considering newly qualified professionals (lawyers, accountants and others who have to sit exams by profesional bodies are often required to show how many attempts at each exam they have taken before they passed to the next stage towards qualifiying).

3. A re-establishing of the benchmark at GCSE and the academic streaming of A Levels to restore confidence in the veracity of these exams.

4. A universally recognised vocational qualification and the dumping of the "vocational A Levels" which are an illusury, and debasing nonesense. This vocational qualification ought to be robust, worthwhile, relevant, and contain training and constant assessment on work based skills that include numeracy and literacy.

5. An increase in selection based on criteria evaluated over time. This is not a return to the 11-plus, but rather a continual assessment of every child's abilities and then streaming through either sets or selection to the most appropriate system of examination.

6. A return to school discipline by handing back to teachers the power to rein in unruly pupils and a removal of child-centred rights.

Keith

A lot of the vocational courses offered in the new Universities are designed to encourage students to enroll so that they can obtain the fee money they need to stay afloat. THES identified last week a funding gap that could mean the bankruptcy (financial as opposed to educational, but in my mind one in the same) of some institutions.

What is needed is a bottum-up review of education to focus on:

1. Establishing literacy in primary education.

2. A move back to quantative as opposed to purely qualitative examination with a significant emphasis on final examination and not "continual assessment" through coursework. Where coursework is a factor the emphasis for progression should be on "first time passes" of modules which is exactly what employers look at when considering newly qualified professionals (lawyers, accountants and others who have to sit exams by profesional bodies are often required to show how many attempts at each exam they have taken before they passed to the next stage towards qualifiying).

3. A re-establishing of the benchmark at GCSE and the academic streaming of A Levels to restore confidence in the veracity of these exams.

4. A universally recognised vocational qualification and the dumping of the "vocational A Levels" which are an illusury, and debasing nonesense. This vocational qualification ought to be robust, worthwhile, relevant, and contain training and constant assessment on work based skills that include numeracy and literacy.

5. An increase in selection based on criteria evaluated over time. This is not a return to the 11-plus, but rather a continual assessment of every child's abilities and then streaming through either sets or selection to the most appropriate system of examination.

6. A return to school discipline by handing back to teachers the power to rein in unruly pupils and a removal of child-centred rights.

Keith

A lot of the vocational courses offered in the new Universities are designed to encourage students to enroll so that they can obtain the fee money they need to stay afloat. THES identified last week a funding gap that could mean the bankruptcy (financial as opposed to educational, but in my mind one in the same) of some institutions.

What is needed is a bottum-up review of education to focus on:

1. Establishing literacy in primary education.

2. A move back to quantative as opposed to purely qualitative examination with a significant emphasis on final examination and not "continual assessment" through coursework. Where coursework is a factor the emphasis for progression should be on "first time passes" of modules which is exactly what employers look at when considering newly qualified professionals (lawyers, accountants and others who have to sit exams by profesional bodies are often required to show how many attempts at each exam they have taken before they passed to the next stage towards qualifiying).

3. A re-establishing of the benchmark at GCSE and the academic streaming of A Levels to restore confidence in the veracity of these exams.

4. A universally recognised vocational qualification and the dumping of the "vocational A Levels" which are an illusury, and debasing nonesense. This vocational qualification ought to be robust, worthwhile, relevant, and contain training and constant assessment on work based skills that include numeracy and literacy.

5. An increase in selection based on criteria evaluated over time. This is not a return to the 11-plus, but rather a continual assessment of every child's abilities and then streaming through either sets or selection to the most appropriate system of examination.

6. A return to school discipline by handing back to teachers the power to rein in unruly pupils and a removal of child-centred rights.

a-tracy

Well for a start if a child doesn't want or isn't able to learn a foreign language, three separate science subjects and History they shouldn't be forced into those classes.

The main problem that I forsee is where are the teachers for these programmes to be rolled out nationally? Will skilled craftspeople and tradesmen have to take their teacher training degree before they can teach? Most tradespeople I know wouldn't thank you for a school environment run by rules, red tape and targets with few disciplinary controls. Did you watch Ian Wright last night, how he despaired of school p.e. teachers who just allowed children to opt out of the classes week after week - as he said would you be allowed to do that in Maths if you forgot your book and stationery.

Too many students struggling to get along in basic literacy and numeracy can't just be put into vocational training as a solve all because believe or not you have to be quite bright to become a competent electrician, plumber, builder, nursery nurse, operational controller or joiner.

Mike Christie

All splendid stuff. There is a huge snobbery in this country about manual work, and that stretches into the education system. Many children get completely left behind in our education system and we seem to be moving towards a point where children either go to university or drop out of school at 16 with a clutch of mediocre GCSEs. The culture of target setting from NuLab has resulted in schools concentrating huge amounts of effort on pupils who are borderline C/D grades in their GCSEs at the expense of pupils above and below that level of achievement. Our education system needs to be much more flexible and to be able to give to the children who aren't the most gifted academically, a sound solid education that will prepare them for life.

[email protected]:22 We have a situation now where huge numbers of people are graduating from university with degrees in subjects like media studies, or sociology, or english which have no direct relevance to a particular career.

Tom, many university degrees have no direct application in later life, how many Classics graduates actually use the knowledge they gained from their degree as a crucial part of their job? Whilst we must ensure that people gain an education that will be useful to them in later life, we must not get trapped in the notion that direct applicability is essential. Skills learned on a technical course in something like IT could be obsolete within years of graduating. The ability to learn and use information effectively is in many ways as important as the content of the degree.

Denis Cooper

Without arguing against this proposal, the problems start at primary school.

I feel sure there weren't so many children leaving primary school unable to read and write properly and/or with a poor grasp of arithmetic fifty years ago, when a single teacher could manage a class of typically 40 - 60 (plus) children, because they were sat at desks in rows, there was strict (although not necessarily harsh) discipline, and the teachers were expected to actually teach. Now the average teacher, supported by one or two or even more classroom assistants, gets poorer results with a much smaller class, and of course at much higher cost per child.

It doesn't help that the class will now contain at least one child who shouldn't be in mainstream education, and that by now some of the parents are themselves the products of a degraded system and are poorly educated, ill-disciplined and antagonistic rather than supportive towards the teachers.

But as far as I can see the decline started with the 1967 Plowden report.

David Belchamber

Keith @ 10.42:
Thank you for your very helpful post (all three of them!).
I agree 100% with your comments on establishing literacy in primary education; I was appalled by the statement in the list of 50 Nulab failures that c50% of 11 year olds cannot read, write or count properly. If you haven't got the basic tools of the trade, you can't do anything worthwhile. In my book, such pupils should either stay down or be put into a separate remedial unit. They cannot be but disruptive in secondary school.
I also agree wholeheartedly with your proposal in para 4; I would like the vocational qualification at college to attain the same status socially as a degree.

David Belchamber

a-tracy @ 12.52: I fully agree with your comment:
"Too many students struggling to get along in basic literacy and numeracy can't just be put into vocational training as a solve all because believe or not you have to be quite bright to become a competent electrician, plumber, builder, nursery nurse, operational controller or joiner".

As you will see from my answer (03.08) to Keith, I believe that entry into secondary education must be underpinned by a reasonable degree of competence in the core subjects.
I agree it might be difficult initially to get sufficient teachers but I am pinning some hopes on kids taking to certain subjects if they are practical, rather than academic, especially if they are given remedial training at 11.

David Belchamber

Denis @ 0.206:
"Without arguing against this proposal, the problems start at primary school".

Sadly, hardly anyone could disagree with you on this; I don't know whether you agree with my suggestions above. They might be impractical but I don't think a teacher can teach properly if there are two or three children in the class without the basic tools for the job. Therefore they have to be separated - but not cast onto the scrapheap.

Jack Holland

The suggested Vocational Colleges are what used to be Polytechnics. It was a mistake to call them universities - the vocational emphasis is now diluted and there is pressure to get rid of sub-degree work, if it has not already gone. There should be more emphasis on FE colleges - too long the cinderellas of the education system.

Denis Cooper

Yes, I do agree with you, and in fact so does Jack McConnell apparently:

"Failing pupils to learn trades at new schools"

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1410932006

"The First Minister wants pupils aged 14 and over who are failing academically to attend 'Skills Academies', where they will be taught how to become plumbers, electricians, joiners and other skilled workers."

The reported reaction from a teachers' union was interesting, and some might say revealing:

QUOTE

"David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "This is all about election posturing and not about education. It is the worst form of selection."

He added: "It is an arbitrary process. You are doing these kids down in a big sense. There is no reason why plumbers shouldn't do poetry.

"They have their whole life to learn a trade and there is no reason why the whole breadth of the curriculum is shut off just because they are going to go for a trade. It is going back to the bad old days."

UNQUOTE

I suppose those would be the bad old days when children left school able to read and write and do simple sums, and equipped to do a useful job and earn a living.

Mark Wadsworth

Denis 3.53, where do you find quotes like that so quickly? Gold dust, real gold dust.

By the way, he doesn't mean the bad old days of the fifties or sixties when most people could read and write, he means the other bad old days, the ones the Tories want to usher back in, where kids get taken out of school at age eight to clean chimneys and work in the mills and so on.

deborah

simply, YES.
We have lots of useless university courses. Instead we need:
good basic numeracy and literacy.
good technical training
good on-the-job training
Respect for skilled workers

Richard

There was a time when I'd have been 100% in favour of this policy. However, after reading Alison Wolf's "Does Education Matter?". I've had a rethink. The general trend across the West, even in Germany, is away from vocational courses. British governments have been promoting vocational education for years but there just hasn't been the enthusiasm. The problem is that people don't like the idea of being tied down to one career path. And with increasing numbers of people gaining degrees, others feel they need to get a degree to compete in the jobs market. Degrees, even though they are subject specific, are perceived as encouraging a wide range of generic mental skills.

So while we believe it might be better for thousands of people to train as plumbers, they would prefer a more generic degree such as media studies. That said I don't believe the tax payer should subsidise these degrees.

Adrian Owens

I've voted yes and hope this is approved.

Of course CH readers (mistakenly in my view) have also approved compulsory history and all 3 sciences so there won't actually be space in the curriculum at GCSE level for what David proposes!

This is where stage 2 of this 100policies I hope kicks in - we need to ensure that policy proposals that have been approved are not inconsistent.

David Belchamber

Thank you Jack Holland @ 03.40 for your very salutary remark:

"The suggested Vocational Colleges are what used to be Polytechnics. It was a mistake to call them universities".

It was a great mistake; in France "Les ecoles polytechniques" or "Les grandes ecoles" were, when I was a student there, quite rightly held in the highest esteem.

As I said at the start of my submission (quoting John Cole):
“…politics is only important through the effect it has on the lives of ordinary people”.

Deborah @ 04.40 sets out clearly exactly what is needed to equip pupils and students for their entry into the workforce.

We do not start life with the same talents or level of intelligence but a civilised society is one where all can find a place and feel proud that they are equipped to do something fulfilling.

David Belchamber

Your comment, Richard @ 05.06 is a very interesting one:
"The general trend across the West, even in Germany, is away from vocational courses".

It underlines the fact that the policy I put forward is (necessarily) simplistic and, if it were received favourably, it would need considerable fleshing out.

The basis of any education, whether academic or vocational, must be a proper grasp of the three Rs, which ought to be attained by 11 but, as we have seen from the list of Nulab failures, is not always the case.
There are already a range of vocational subjects up to GCSE but I would suggest, as a topic for discussion, that a business administration course could be offered in different modules and worth 2 or 3 GCSEs to take the place of the same number of traditional subjects (say, English for business and accountancy instead of English and Maths).

I think that after GCSE, a return to something like the old divide between the practical and the academic might be looked at.
I take Richard's point about people no longer wanting to be tied down to one career path (I have had quite a varied number of careers myself) but I don't see any merit in encouraging students to go to university if they are not of an academic bent.
I do believe the country and individual students would still benefit from high quality vocational courses at colleges and I would add courses in business management and administration which I think would be better run by colleges than by universities, although they would have quite a substantial academic content.
These courses should not be confused with MBAs (though students might proceed to an MBA). They would be designed to improve the general quality of management and administration in the country.

sjm

These proposals have my support, but as Denis says, the problems go back to 1967. My two children both went to Grammar Schools in the '80's, most of the educational establishment then looked down on any career path that was not academic, primary schools had given up on teaching grammar. I was a primary school governor in the '90's, and sat in some lessons - the children learned largely despite the teaching not because of it, but woe betide the ones who didn't come from homes with the will and ability to fill in the gaps!

A thorough plumbing course is a damn sight more valuable, not just in financial terms, than a media studies degree.

Cardinal Pirelli

Yes, yes yes.

Rather late with this (as usual) so nothing to add but a policy that I was hoping would appear in the 'education week'. Good to see it here anyway.

Ralph Lucas

I don't see the need for such a firm division. A double first in classics who can't wire a light without blowing the socket out of the wall is just as disadvantaged as an electrician who can't spell.

Academic subjects with a strong practical element, such as the sciences that I studied or proper geography coursework, have a lot to be said for them even for the A stream; we are promised broadly vocational courses (the specialist diplomas) where the academic underpinning will be rigorous (we shall see). I'd like to see more subjects in the middle - GCSE architecture (art, history, maths, science) for instance.

Current GCSEs contain much that non-specialists have no need for - if we cut those bits out, there's space in the curriculum for either academic or vocational studies to be built on a common foundation.

David Belchamber

Ralph Lucas @ 07.21: there is much in what you say that I agree with. What I feel Blair has done is to turn universities into comprehensives; I believe we should return to some sort of distinction between the academic and the vocational to the benefit of both.
I particularly agree with your support of academic subjects with a strong practical element in them and I would argue that my proposed business management courses at a college would be vocational courses containing a strong academic element.

cheap air yeezy

Today must borrow nothing of tomorrow.

moncler outlets

I "like" you on Facebook. Would love these for my oldest boy!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Advertising

  • DVD rental
  • Conservative Books
Blog powered by Typepad

Subscribe

  • Conservative Home's
    free eMailing List
    Enter your name and email address below:
    Name:
    Email:
    Subscribe    
    Unsubscribe 

  • Tracker 2
  • Extreme Tracker