Following Ofsted Chief Michael Wilshaw’s criticism of ‘one size fits all’ academic learning, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has criticised state schools for ‘outdated snobbery’ and promised a new law that ensures they promote technical education and apprenticeships as real alternatives to university. Morgan told the Independent:
‘For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but for other young people the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better’.
But the government’s own figures have continued to show only a minority of the 2 million apprenticeships created since 2010 have been for school-leavers – in 2014/15 just 20% of starts were by those under 19. Well over half of new starts have also been ‘low-level’ (being offered at Intermediate level – equivalent to GCSE, a level that most school leavers have already reached) and ‘dead-end’ (not leading to permanent employment, or allowing progression to higher levels of training). Meanwhile, ‘cutting edge’ apprenticeships in engineering and technology for example, are massively oversubscribed.
Even Ofsted has published a damning report about apprenticeship quality:
‘Inspectors, observed for example, apprentices in the food production, retail and care sectors who were simply completing their apprenticeship by having existing low-level skills, such as making coffee, serving sandwiches or cleaning floors, accredited. While these activities are no doubt important to the everyday running of the businesses, as apprenticeships they do not add enough long-term value.’ (Ofsted, 2015: 4)
Morgan, like Wilshaw, is very good at spelling out options for ‘other people’s children’ but with so few alternatives available for young people, then it isn’t surprising that, despite the fees, most of those who are able will try progress to university to improve their chances of any type of reliable employment. Schools can hardly blamed for encouraging this.
Another Great Training Robbery or a Real Alternative Alternative for Young People?
Rewritten and updated January 2016
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