Here comes the Baker-laureate


Lord (Ken) Baker who, in another life as Margaret Thatcher’s education minister brought us the National Curriculum and more recently the University Technical Colleges (UTCs); has been busy again – this time upstaging Ed Miliband, ( by announcing plans for a new Technical Baccalaureate and also warning that Michael Gove’s English Baccalaureate  is a ‘huge mistake’ (

Chair of the Edge Foundation, one of the partner organisations behind the national petition calling for more consultation,   Baker isn’t necessarily against the E-Bacc in itself; more that it will leave schools with ‘disgruntled youngsters’ no longer able to follow more practical vocational types of learning.  Indeed he calls for specialised ‘liberal arts’ schools post-14 that provide  traditional  grammar school education alongside his UTCs with other specialist schools  focussing on areas like ‘performing arts’ for example, although the Techbacc would be available for any school able to offer it.

Baker doesn’t seem to have had a problem with the post-war Tripartite  system either, except for the fact that the ‘technical’ schools  were not developed properly because of traditional English academic snobbery and that with the introduction of UTCs at last there are schools ‘where you get your hands dirty’,-schools-for-getting-your-hands-dirty. Like other Tories he probably considers that with a more appropriate education, the toiling masses would still be grafting away in factories and workshops, restoring Britain’s industrial base?

The new Aston UTC for example, may have close links with and be able to secure employment in the Birmingham engineering industry, or what’s left of it; but as the UK continues to deindustrialise and the economy lurches towards a ‘triple-dip’ recession, how many of the other 33 proposed UTCs will have genuine local employer sponsorship, provide real employment opportunities and whether the UTC initiative will be any more successful than Baker’s  City Technology Schools (CTCs)  established nearly 20 years ago, remains to be seen.

The Baker-Dearing Trust, which promotes the UTCs continues  the philosophy of Ron Dearing, responsible for introducing separate academic and vocational ‘pathways’ in secondary education and  seen as a reversal of comprehensive ideas. Gove and the Department for Education may be carefully distancing themselves from Baker; but they still want a two-tiered school system (Baker wants to restore the three-tier one) for a polarised job market where increasing numbers, if not out of work, continue to be ‘underemployed’ in jobs bearing little relation to their qualifications.

That’s why we need an alternative general diploma for everybody.

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