The forgotten 50% need a one nation education system.

A dialogue between Simplex and Sapiens, two education policy commentators:

Simplex: You don’t need to be a historian to know the value of education.

Sapiens: And history shows that we cannot achieve ‘one nation’ goals with ‘two nation’ policies.

Sim: No education system exceeds the quality of its teachers.

Sap: But surely a good education system can improve the impact of good teachers?

Sim: Transforming vocational education is paramount to delivering our vision for the forgotten 50 per cent of young people not heading to university who are too often denied the rewarding education they deserve.

Sap: Many vocational students go to university too, remember?

Sim: Young people are not being offered a clear, gold standard vocational route through school and college.

Sap: Have you heard of Extended Diplomas, offered in many colleges and leading to higher education? Do look into them, they’re rigorous and clear and most universities value them.

Sim: This is resulting in wasted talent, limitation on life chances and contributing to the current crisis in youth unemployment.

Sap: But even well qualified young people are finding it hard to get jobs, right?

Sim: Transforming vocational education will promote social mobility and deliver the skilled workforce needed for a better, stronger economy.

Sap: So is our economy weak because young people lack skills?

Sim: The government should legislate for the activity that builds character and resilience in pupils.

Sap: At least that will help them cope with unemployment.

Sim: We will ensure that all young people continue English and maths to 18.

Sap: Just like the current government then?

Sim: We will introduce a new gold standard Technical Baccalaureate for young people, acting as a stepping stone into an apprenticeship, further study or skilled work. The Tech Bacc will include a high quality vocational qualification, work experience, and English and maths.

Sap: Just like the current government’s Tech Bacc then? Sounds a bit like a two-nation solution.

Sim: We will give colleges a central role in delivering our vision for the forgotten 50 per cent of young people. We will transform those colleges into new specialist Institutes of Technical Education. These Institutes will be licensed to deliver our Tech Bacc. Further Education colleges focused on training for local jobs.

Sap: Is this ‘Royston Vasey Tech’ vision really aspirational and world class enough? Why not expect all colleges and sixth forms to offer a broad, stretching ‘one-nation’ National Bacc to all young people?


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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