By Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals for SecEd, 8 February 2017
I believe that there should be parity between academic education and vocational education, which is designed to meet students’ and future employers’ needs, rather than focusing on a narrow range of academic subjects. For education to be a preparation for life, one which provides the basis for the skills essential to personal effectiveness in and outside the workplace, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education should also have an equal place and value on the curriculum.
PSHE and arts subjects all contribute not only to a balanced curriculum, but promote the development of those essential skills young people need for life, including choice, especially when choosing a life path which currently is biased toward the academic.
The recently published Government green paper, Building our Industrial Strategy, recognises the technical skills shortage facing this country – a shortage to be addressed in part through the education system for the survival of a post-Brexit Britain. Addressing this objective will, like many others, require government, employers and the education profession to work together. Of course, the ability not only to listen but also hear and understand perspective and context is, sadly, something of a work in progress for governments with set political agendas, which is a source of constant frustration for the education profession.
New technical pathways [England] proposed last year, following recommendations from the Sainsbury Review, aim to address the failure of the current system to meet the challenge of the fast pace of technological advances and the changing needs of employers and the economy.
Nevertheless, the proposals re-open the long-running debate over the value of vocational education and its relationship to academic education, not least given the over-reliance of the accountability system on academic achievement and progress….
… there is something of a false dichotomy between academic and vocational education, as many academic subjects come to life when applied to occupational specialisms such as biology, medicine and engineering. Some subjects are both academic and vocational, for example, music, art, design and technology, and computing….
….“technical education” appears to replace the term “vocational education”. Will students and parents be any more inclined towards a “technical” education route?…
There are many hurdles for policy makers to overcome before technical education will achieve the aspiration of government. It must be valued equally with academic achievement by pupils, parents and employers….