ERIC Number: EJ956891
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Reference Count: 16
Where Next for Vocational Education?
British Journal of Sociology of Education, v33 n2 p315-322 2012
The author of this review begins with a declaration of interest--more than a decade and a half ago he, along with Alison Wolf and 13 other researchers, signed a letter to the "Financial Times" protesting at design flaws in National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). Their missive provoked a grumpy response from the then National Council for Vocational Qualifications, but the issues it raised were ignored by policy-makers. The Wolf Review, in part, explores some of the lasting consequences of government's choice of living with and sometimes even loving a deeply deficient system of vocational qualifications (VQs). Wolf's report runs to 196 pages (including technical appendices), raises a host of complex and contentious issues, and makes 27 recommendations. In this article, the author addresses a few key issues, which raise both immediate questions about policy formation but which also reflect deeper structural issues, such as the nature of the labour market and its wage systems, and vocational education's relationship with employment and with distinctive national conceptions of skill and occupation. By far the Review's largest achievement is to confront policy-makers with problems and issues of which they have sometimes been aware, but also in profound denial of, for many years. Thus most of the Review's conclusions will not come as news to researchers, but their appearance in an officially-commissioned policy review renders it difficult for government to avoid addressing them. This is extremely important because one of the key means by which English policy-makers cope with the counterfactual is by simply refusing to acknowledge that it exists and by therefore not producing any response, reasoned or otherwise, to the challenges raised. The Department for Education has accepted all the Review's recommendations in full, Professor Wolf has been given a watching brief to help ensure follow through, and reviews arising from Wolf's recommendations are under way around issues such as league-table criteria, English and mathematics qualifications, and VQ reform. However, it would be unwise to assume the inevitability of swift and smooth progress. Many policy-makers know that their most powerful weapons are often inactivity, inertia and the ability to "sit it out" until the demand for reform dies down. Their problem is that many of the issues raised by Wolf, far from dwindling, are liable to only become more acute and visible if decisive action is not taken.
Descriptors: Policy Formation, Employment Qualifications, Labor Market, Researchers, Vocational Education, Education Work Relationship, Educational Policy, Futures (of Society), Educational Trends, Salaries, Job Skills, Educational Change, Foreign Countries
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom