Vocational syllabus will cost more

14 Feb 02
School and college leaders have presented the government with a multimillion pound bill for delivering its new educational agenda for 14-19 year olds.

15 February 2002

While most organisations welcomed ministers' plans to offer more choice, they warned that the changes would not come cheaply.

Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris wants more students to remain in full-time education until 19 when they will have the chance to gain a new matriculation diploma. A-levels will include more demanding questions, and GCSEs will become a 'progress check' along the way.

The 14-16 curriculum will be more flexible, with teenagers able to choose a mix of vocational and academic subjects. 'We should no longer tolerate a culture that devalues vocational learning and squanders the talent of too many people,' said Morris on February 12 at the launch of the green paper, 14-19: Extending opportunities, raising standards.

While the number of compulsory subjects is to be reduced, schools will still be expected to offer 14-16 year olds a full academic curriculum. Some vocational courses are likely to be delivered in collaboration with further education colleges by building on existing schemes.

Morris promised to remove barriers to collaboration and to reward good practice by providing 'some financial assistance'.

But the Association of Colleges claimed £372m per year would be needed by 2005/06 if one fifth of pupils in years 10 and 11 were to spend part of their week in college and the workplace.

About 150 colleges deliver vocational education to school pupils for half a day per week. David Gibson, AoC's chief executive, said the government had allocated £38m per year to support expansion. He said: 'It's vital that the chancellor backs these plans in the summer's Spending Review.'

Graham Lane, the Local Government Association's education chair, said the final bill would ultimately depend on the number of extra students staying on beyond 16.

Schools would also need to train more teachers for vocational courses, which are generally more expensive to deliver. 'If you want a first-class education and training system you have to be prepared to pay for it,' he added.


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