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Technical and Vocational Education

Volume 565: debated on Monday 24 June 2013

More than 60% of 16 to 19-year-olds now participate in vocational education. This Government have: raised the quality of vocational qualifications; expanded vocational education through studio schools and university technical colleges; and introduced tighter quality controls in further education and work experience. All those reforms build on Professor Wolf’s report on vocational education, which was welcomed across the board.

How can we ensure that high-quality non-academic learning gets the status and recognition it deserves, given that we need more practical on-the-job training, such as is being provided at university technical colleges?

My hon. Friend makes a typically acute point. The way in which we can raise the esteem and prestige of vocational qualifications and vocational training is by making sure they are every bit as rigorous as academic qualifications and the academic pathway—I say “pathway” for want of a better word, although I am sure there is one. The way in which we do so is by making sure that the recommendations in Alison Wolf’s report are implemented—recommendations that were once accepted by the Opposition Front-Bench team but now seem to be rejected.

The SKIDZ motor project in my constituency helps children achieve vocational skills pre-16. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that for children who need some context to help them with academic skills some vocational framework is available before they reach 16?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and it is one reason we are consulting on changing the way in which schools are held to account for the way in which they provide for students up to the age of 16, in order to ensure that vocational and technical qualifications are genuinely considered to be equivalent to academic qualifications because they are as rigorous.