Abstract This literature review compares research conducted and articles written about the development of 14-19 education and the changes it has gone through since 2002. It briefly outlines the initial implementation of 14-19 education during the Thatcher government before going on to concentrate on how the Labour government introduced Diplomas and what the Coalition government are doing to push this agenda forward. It asks whether academic and vocational education can ever be valued equally and whether the introduction of 14 year olds in further education establishments is successful or not.
The majority of the literature was commissioned either by the government or conducted in 14-19 educational establishments. Similarities and comparisons between the research are identified and questions are asked as to how successful it might be in the future. . History of 14-19 Education The idea of 14-19 education was introduced in 1983 by the Conservative government under its leader Margaret Thatcher. The first development was called the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI), and was a pilot scheme was rolled out into schools and colleges in1988.
The scheme was run by the Manpower Services Commission (MSC,) which came under the Department of Employment not the Department of Education and Science. Jeremy Higham and David Yeomans point out in the London Review of Education (2011) that, from 1988 to 2002 14-19 vocational education was on simmer and it was not until 2002 under the New Labour government that we saw renewed enthusiasm to for this area of education. The initiative came from the Curriculum 2000 Reform of Advance Qualifications.
Between 2002 and 2010 the focus was back on the progression of our young people and, essentially, the future of our work force. The Labour government commissioned an independent enquiry by Mike Tomlinson in 2004 who proposed a new vision for 14-19 education, recommending the introduction of Diplomas. These would build on the strengths of the education system already in place. However the government rejected this and decided to keep GCSE and A levels but to offer diplomas as an alternative the initiative gained respect from schools, colleges and local authorities.
Diplomas were introduced in 2008 but have not been successful in gaining credit in industry or education; this has brought forward many issues relating to 14-19 education from teaching and learning, funding, employer contributions and the integration of school age pupils in FE colleges. The current Coalition government commissioned Alison Wolf to review 14-19 education in 2011. Academic/Vocational Education and Funding A major divide in 14-19 education is attitudes towards academic and vocational training.
To give equality and value to both sides of what is still an educational ‘divide’ we need to alter society’s thinking and social attitudes. The review of the 14-19 Green Paper by the Department for Education (2002) states that, ‘Pushing for parity of esteem in the current educational climate leads to ‘academicising’ vocational subjects. It was felt by some that the vocational was being forced into the traditional classroom-dominated achievement environment, rather than realistically accepting the different teaching and assessment demands of vocational courses.
’ (DfES, 2002) Even though there are differences between the academic and vocational routes, teaching and assessment methods have to be different, can the value of learning and the qualification be equal? The DfES review does state that to make attitudinal changes requires substantial investment as well as long term consultation and marketing campaigns which they compare to the commitment to improving the long term plan of the National Health Service (NHS).
Connexions consulted with learners in 2001 to gain their view on government papers entitled: Green paper-Schools: Building on Success, 2001 and white paper-Schools: Achieving Success, 2001. The focus group of learners conducted by Connexions produced a positive response. Learners were enthusiastic about being asked to participate in the consultation and formulating opinions on education, they concluded that, ‘…the choice of core subjects was generally right.
They wanted to maintain the entitlement to study a modern foreign language, design and technology, the arts and the humanities. The subjects, deemed essential for personal development for example citizenship (which is to be introduced as a statutory subject within the National Curriculum from September 2002), religious education, sex and health education, physical education, work related learning and careers education should all be compulsory although not necessarily studied to GCSE level if the young person does not want to. ’ (Connexions, 2002)
Regarding the discussion on the equality of academic and vocational training young people were of the opinion that, ‘vocational pathways needed to be heavily publicised to young people themselves, employers and higher education institutions so that the pathways became quickly established to form part of the traditional pathways for entry to higher education. ’ (Connexions, 2002) Comparing the two opinions, the DfES review of the 14-19 Green Paper by the Department for Education and the consultations conducted by Connexions both from 2002.
The DfES wanted to take their time to ensure development of 14-19 education was more successful, but the learners wanted action to be quick, as they could see the benefit of changing views and progression. This showed that they want to progress and do have aspirations of Higher Education (HE). Tomlinson’s (2004) VE proposal was not taken on board fully, only in part with Diplomas being introduced as an alternative to GCSE and A Levels. Do we need a radical reform of 14-19 education as he suggested? To change deep rooted attitudes and opinions in society about academic and vocational education, maybe it is necessary.
An article in the guardian stated prior to launch of the diplomas, ‘We have never seen big new public qualifications arrive with so little input from people who have experience in qualifications and teaching. ’( Meikle 2007) It would seem that the implementation of diplomas has been rushed; therefore they have not achieved the status needed to change opinions. In response to Tomlinson’s (2004) proposals for diplomas the Nuffield Review (2009) asks the question, who is responsible for the Vocational Training Education system?
In the UK it is not clear, but does include a long list of people: parents, students, the government, education and training providers and employers. Vocational courses have been seen to have less value than traditional educational routes with fewer opportunities to progress to HE and advanced qualifications but, as Alison Wolf (2011) points out, other countries have reformed their systems and increased numbers of students taking two and three year learning programmes.
She states, ‘Bringing vocational pathways into a single framework would give formal equality of standing between, academic, vocational, and mixed pathways, recognise areas of overlap between them; provide opportunities to combine, transfer, and progress between them; and ensure greater educational content within vocational programmes. It would make them easier for learners to identify progression routed to advanced level and beyond. ’ (Wolf, 2011) Wolfe (2011) agrees with the views of Tomlinson (2004) over the integration of academic and vocational education.
With this in mind, as well as the research from the DfES and Connexions I quoted earlier, I believe it is the roles and responsibilities that need definition, from the education and political establishments to all people involved as well as those undertaking the training. However, a structured achievement and progression route in VE is necessary to engage employers and bring value to FE training and qualifications if we are to see equality between academic and vocational training. Wolf has recommended that the government extends funding up to the age of 24, as not all students will have achieved a Level 2/3 by the age of 19.
To ensure students achieve their potential in Maths and English, extending funding was also proposed. Wolf criticised the funding structure at present, saying that it gave colleges the incentive to create programmes for profit but not for the benefit of the students. She agreed with Foster‘s opinion in 2005, and The Nuffield Review 2009, that funding should follow the learner encouraging institutions to collaborate which would integrate education and provide the best educational programme for each individual student:
‘Policy levers, i.e. funding and performance measures, should focus on collective action rather than promote institutional competition’ (Nuffield, 2009) Funding used as a ‘policy lever’ could achieve more integration of academic skills into vocational areas. Teaching and Learning and Inspection VE has been taught in FE colleges because they are equipped for vocational subjects. Schools have primarily chosen classroom based vocational subjects as they do not have the facilities to offer practical vocational learning, which defeats the object of VE.
The opening of new educational establishments currently planned to open between now and 2014 University Technical Colleges (2012) (UTC) will give VE an identity of its own as well as integrate it with the national curriculum. Compulsory education to the age of 18 will be introduced from 2013 with more opportunity and choice being given to students to access VE making it more important than ever to progress 14-19 education. Issues were raised during research by the Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) who researched ‘the capacity of the teachers and their institutions to meet the needs of younger learners’ (Harkin, 2006).
For example, the college environment could be overwhelming and frightening, especially at lunchtimes. The research questioned who was responsible for the students, were they mature enough to be treated in an adult way? This identified conflicting views: some teachers thought they needed supervision all the time at college but others commented that colleges were not ‘in loco parentis’, but still had a duty of care. They did, however say that college support in the classroom was essential to maintain the safety of the student as well as managing behaviour.
In conclusion, it was identified that getting feedback from 14-16 year old students about teaching and learning was difficult due to their unpredictability and poor literacy skills. For example, discussion was often an alien concept for formulating and articulating their opinions and views, it is a more andragogical approach, one not used enough in a school environment for them to feel confident in expressing themselves. FE tutors need to have a clearer understanding of how teaching is carried out in schools, as it probably follows a more pedagogical approach.
To ensure that college tutors adapt their teaching to the needs of younger student the TLRC said that, ‘There is a particular need for pedagogical training, rather than training in behaviour management, and for staff to understand the prior attainment of the students’ (Harkin, 2006, p. 36) I feel that there is a need for behaviour management training during professional development as it complement teaching and learning in the classroom.
The Nuffield Review (2009) highlighted the importance of teachers being central to the planning of the curriculum for 14-19 year olds, ‘Teaching quality and the relationship between teachers and learners is central to successful education. This requires a respect for the profession of teaching – for the role of teachers as the custodians of what we value and as the experts in communicating that to the learners. Teachers should be central to curriculum development, not the ‘deliverers’ of someone else’s curriculum.
(Nuffield, 2009) Tomlinson (2004) said that the quality of learning depends ‘heavily on the quality of the teaching’ and that teachers would need time to develop their own skills in their subject area to keep up to date and inspired, especially in vocational teaching. Foster (2005) also said that, more emphasis was needed on updating professional knowledge and industry development and even suggested sabbatical and secondment opportunities between education and industry.
This I feel is idealistic in today’s economic climate but I have in recent years seen increased opportunities to update professional skills within my own teaching establishment. He also asked that FE colleges improve employability and skills in their local area to contribute to economic growth and social inclusion and offer a range of courses that have solid foundations. With these extra roles are FE colleges spreading themselves too thinly? FE colleges are like the ‘middle child’ aiming to please both compulsory education and higher education as well as employers.
How can they do this most effectively and gain respectability for the diversity they offer both in courses, abilities, social backgrounds and disabilities of their students? Foster 2005 compared the situation in this country to the one in America where they have no formal inspection process and colleges have a strong self-regulation policy. Giving responsibility and trust to our colleges would see the higher levels of achievement already evident in America. Assessment of institutions is an added pressure.
Working in English education we have come to accept it, but is the English system’s controlling, heavy- handed approach necessary? Foster compared Britain with its European neighbours and concluded that they had a much lighter touch. Such development here would give FE tutors more self-esteem, less pressure and more time to teach. Employer contribution FE has always had to promote and build strong relationships with industry and employers, including, supporting apprenticeships and work experience, and forming partnerships with employers to develop qualifications and make them relevant to industry.
The TLRP in 2006 concluded that, ‘We need a sector-by sector analysis of the distinctive role apprenticeship can play in providing the knowledge and skills required in the contemporary economic and occupational context. Further and higher education, as well as employer bodies and trade unions, need to be involved in a forward-looking partnership that lifts the work-based route out if its social inclusion ghetto’ (The Teaching and Learning Research Programme 2006, p.40)
In 2004, Foster commented that the LSC National Skill Survey of 2004, found that only 15%, of employers had made use of FE colleges when enquiring about training and skills needed in industry. Whilst Tomlinson ( 2004) wanted to reform 14-19 education and merge VE and academic learning, he had no view on how industry and employers would be an imperative and central part of the development in VE. College qualifications and skills teaching will not stand up to industry standards if employers are not consulted thoroughly.
They need to be consulted initially to develop qualifications that are relevant as well as periodically to integrate changes, updates and progression within industry. Links with employers have traditionally been through apprenticeships, mainly for 16-18 year olds. The introduction of adult apprenticeships has had an impact on apprenticeships available to young people as older apprentices can offer life skills and additional qualifications to an employer, The Wolf Report confirms this, stating that 19+ students with A levels took the majority of Advanced Apprenticeships.
In 2008/9 there was a 7% fall in the number of 16-18 year olds starting on apprenticeships. This was due to the promotion of adult apprenticeships as well as the economic downturn of the country. With the age of compulsory education rising and a lack of apprenticeships being offered by employers, it will be important to strengthen the links with employers to help young people stay in education, learn valuable skills and contribute to society for our future work force. The Wolf Report (2011) highlighted the need for employer engagement, saying that employers have gradually been ‘frozen out’ of the way VE operates.
Strengthening links between employers and VE is one of Wolf’s major recommendations, as well as prioritising the development of apprenticeships and work experience and increasing the involvement of employers in FE colleges to improve employability. Her report recommendations summed up below, state; ‘Implementing its recommendations should raise the quality of provision, increase the time spent teaching and thinking about students, reduce the time spent on pointless bureaucracy, increase young people’s skills in critically important areas and make a real difference to young people’s ability to obtain employment’ (Wolf, 2011, p.144).
From the TLRP report 2006 and the Wolf Report 2011, 5 years apart, has much changed or been implemented? Working with employers, I have seen the effect of the economic decline in employment opportunities and feel that some of the changes necessary are beyond the power of education specialists and need to come from alternative government policies to increase employment opportunities. The future The future involves change and evolution of what we have in place at present to ensure FE tutors keep up to date with knowledge and skills.
The government have introduced 13 University Technical Colleges (UTC) which will start to open in September 2012, with a government commitment to another 24 and plans for 100 in the next 5 years. UTCs are linked to a university and will be open all year round with a timetabled day between 8. 30am and 5. 30pm and cater for between 600-800 students. They will cover academic subjects in Maths, English, Sciences, Humanities and Languages as well as transferable employment skills. UTC students will have two specialist vocational subjects i. e. Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing.
The lengthened day will ensure that all homework, enrichment and work experience is covered in the timetable. FE colleges will have the opportunity to become co-sponsors but they will be led primarily by a university. Does this reduce the role of FE colleges? more seems designed to strengthen the progression forward to HE and not FE, whereas Foster (2005) described FE as essential to widening participation in HE and removing barriers. Another emerging education route is Studio Schools which will be state-funded and accommodate 300 students, time tabled between 9am and 5pm.
Six are already open with another 6 planned by the end of 2012. They will teach through community projects, enterprise and work experience. By focussing on how subjects are delivered they may be able to contribute to closing the divide in vocational and academic education. These 2 different types of establishments are similar in the way they are designed to transform of 14-19 education, such as opening times and their work and the community experiences approaches to learning. The biggest difference is the number of students enrolled.
It seems that large academies have been growing over the last couple of years with numbers in excess of 1000 students. Throughout the research I have read there has been no mention of class sizes. It has been proved in the past that some students do not flourish in a large class environment but yet no one has thought to research this. I think on occasions students become a number and I hope that in the future we can still personalise education for the individual as they are all unique.
Conclusion During this literature review I found a diverse range of opinions articles written about VE and academic education and how they can be both valued in society . In January 2012 Alison Wolf backed the action to remove the equivalency of GCSE’s from most vocational subjects. I feel this widens the gap of value between the two education routes but, UTC’s and Studio Schools offer alternatives and it may be an advantage to separate academic and VE entirely.
Through this research I have looked at many areas, concerns and government policies and one of the areas that I think is more important and has a direct relationship to teaching is how 14-16 years old learners integrate into FE colleges and whether learning is appropriate and meets their needs this is an important consideration that requires more research. Word Count-3100 Bibliography Connexions. (2002). Results of the Connexions Service consultations held with young people on the green paper. 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards. Connexions.
DfES. (2002). 14-19 green Paper Consultation Workshops Review. DfES. Foster, A. (2005). Realising the Potential, A review of the future of further education colleges. Nottinghamshire: DfES Publications. Nuffield Foundation. (2009). Educational for All The Future of Education and Training for 14-16 Year Olds. The Future of Education and Training for 14-16 Year Olds. Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2011). London Review of Education, Vocational education and training in the spotlight:back to the future for the UK’s Coalition Government. London: Routledge.
Harkin, J. (2006). Behaving like adults:meeting the needs of younger learners in further education. London: Leaning and Skills Council. Higham, J and Yeomans, D. (2011). Thirty years of 14-19 education and training in England: Reflections on policy, curriculum and organisation. London Review of Education, 217-230. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2010). Journal of Education and Work, Vocational qualifications and progression to higher education: the case of the 14-19 Diplomas in the English system. London: Routledge. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2011).
London Review of Education, Educating 14-19 year olds in England: a UK lens on possible futures. London: Routledge. Hodgson, A. , Spours, K. , and Waring, M. (2005). Higher Education, Curriculum 2000 and the future reform of 14-19 qualifications in England. London: Routledge. Huddleston, P, Keep, W, Unwin, L,. (2005). Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training Discussion Paper 33, What might the Tomlinson and white paper proposals mean for vocational education and work based learning? Teaching and learning Research Programme (2006). 14-19 Education and Training.
London: Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Teaching and Learning Research Programme. (2006). 14-19 Education and Training:A Commentary by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme. London: Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Tomlinson, M. (2004). 14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform, Final Report on the Working Group on 14-19 Reform. Wolf, A. (2011). Review of Vocational Education-The Wolf Report. Websites Studio Schools Trust. n. d. [online] Available at: www. studioschooldtrust. org [Accessed 30 January 2012] University Technical Colleges. n. d. [online] Available at:.
www. utcolleges. org [Accessed 30 January 2012] Newspaper Articles Baker, L. (2011). ‘Wolf’s backing of vocational training is great, but she ducks the question of how much it will cost ‘The Times Educational Supplement. 25 March 2011, p. 31. Meikle, J. (2007) ‘Diplomas being introduced too fast, warns MP’s’, The Guardian. 17 May 2007. [online] Vasager, J. (2012). ‘Thousands of vocational qualifications to be stripped out of GCSE league tables’. The Guardian. 31 January 2012. [online] Wolf, A. (2012) ‘An end to qualifications that have no real value’ The Guardian. 31 January 2012. [online].