800% growth, trumpets Gove. But increase is bound to appear large when the starting number is two.

Janet Downs's picture
The number of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) has increased by 800%, announced Mr Gove. And it’s true. The number has increased by 800% - from two to eighteen.   Two UTCs are open, eight are due to open in 2012 and a further eight have been approved.

It’s a great soundbite – 800%. UTCs, the DfE says, will increase choice for parents. But this will only be true if children live near one of them and want to leave their secondary schools after only three years. According to the DfE, UTCs “play an important role in ensuring that young people have the skills that employers demand” because they focus on a technical education. If each of these UTCs has 1,000 pupils, then only 18,000 of the 3.3 million pupils in English state secondary schools will eventually have the skills needed by modern business according to the Government.

Twenty-five years ago Lord Baker, who’s behind the UTCs, set up the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI). It was a laudable attempt to increase the profile of technical and vocational education in all secondary schools. It’s largely because of TVEI that the majority of schools now offer activities such as Industry Days, work experience and have links with employers. And many also have links with further education colleges. Yet the Government talks and acts as if this hasn’t happened.

Instead of praising what’s already there, the Government continues to promote the notion that UTCs are revolutionary. Instead of approving the technical examinations already offered by secondary schools together with GCSEs, the Government derides them while Lord Baker proposes a new examination, the technical baccalaureate, despite concerns from Professor Alison Wolf, author of the Government’s review of vocational education, that it would usher in a new, two-tier system of education.

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Melissa Benn's picture
Wed, 26/10/2011 - 08:27

On this subject, LSN readers might be interested in a piece I wrote for the Guardian yesterday on the possible drift towards a two tier system – and how government insiders are taking tips from ‘ dual education’ nations like Austria.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 26/10/2011 - 09:58

Andy Burnham quoted from Professor Wolf’s report in the House of Commons on 12 May 2011. Wolf wrote that there “remains a serious risk that schools will simply ignore their less academically successful pupils. This was a risk with the old five GCSEs measure; a risk with the English baccalaureate; and will be a risk with a measure based on selected qualifications.”

Mr Burnham accused Mr Gove of pre-empting the Wolf report by presenting the English baccalaureate as a gold standard for schools. He described the Ebac “a highly prescriptive league table measure, and its arbitrary subject selection, [which has] already damaged the deliverability of Professor Wolf’s vision by relegating vocational learning to second-division status in the public mind and in the minds of schools? … Creative and practical subjects are crucial to the quality vocational education that Professor Wolf advocates, but they are already a devalued currency in our schools because of the Secretary of State’s actions.”

At the same time as devaluing what is already happening in schools to promote both vocational and academic subjects, Mr Gove is endorsing separate provision for “technical” subjects while advocating the Ebac as the only worthwhile set of examinations.


Ben Taylor's picture
Fri, 28/10/2011 - 05:31

If you look at Gove's answers about ebacc and related issues you can see that the issue is much more nuanced.


I would sum it up as vocational and academic as being equal but different. He does not see vocational as inferior.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 28/10/2011 - 10:13

Ben - Mr Gove's endorsement of the E-Bac as the gold standard shows that he does not see vocational as equal however much he appears to praise the latter (especially in the context of UTCs). In the Education Questions to which you refer you will find the following:

English Baccalaureate - 10 mentions
E-Bac - 6 mentions
Vocational - 3 mentions.

That's 16 - 3 in favour of Mr Gove's core of academic examinations.

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