On the 3rd March 2011 Professor Alison Wolf published her review of vocational education in England. The scope of the review was:
To consider how we can improve vocational education for 14-19 year olds and thereby promote successful progression into the labour market and into higher level education and training routes.
Today, the Government published their response to the report and in doing so agreed to take action on all 27 recommendations. The response states that they will ensure that all pupils that fail to achieve A*-C in GCSE English and maths will be expected to continue studying these subjects until the age of 19. It is also stated the Government's aim to simplify the apprenticeship scheme and restated their support for University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools.
As part of this the funding for 16-19 education needs to be radically changed to remove perverse incentives for colleges to accumulate qualifications rather than provide sensible, balanced and broad programmes of study.
Performance tables and funding rules will be reformed to ensure that only the vocational subjects that are comparable to with the best academic qualifications receive performance points. Tables published this year will now also show variations in the performance of low performing pupils, high attaining pupils and those performing as expected. Commenting on these plans in the House of Commons today, Andy Burnham, Shadow Education Secretary, said:
The plans... to measure students at the top and bottom already sound complex to me, so can I ask him [Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education], 'Isn't he in danger of recreating in another form a complex target regime of the kind of which he complained so frequently in opposition? Won't teachers' hearts sink when they hear there are to be more targets...?
The Wolf Report identified some recent changes to the funding processes that have meant that a number of aviation, electrotechnical, plumbing, and heating and ventilation qualifications are no longer available; these will now be reinstated as approved qualifications. The Government's response states:
We want schools and colleges to be free to choose whatever qualifications they identify as most appropriate for particular students and will enable them to progress, whether they are recognised in the performance tables or not. The most important thing is that the choice of course or qualifications is driven by what is best for the pupil, not the performance table score.
Although he stated that he supported a lot of what was included in the Wolf Review, Andy Burnham raised doubts about the compatibility of this aim and the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). He said that the Ebacc had:
Already damaged the viability of Professor Wolf's vision by relegating vocational learning to second division status in the public mind and the mind of schools.
In response to this comment, Michael Gove, highlighted a letter that Professor Wolf wrote to the Guardian newspaper in March, where she stated that Ebacc subjects would normally take up less than 80 percent of a typical teaching week and that:
Both it and many other "academic" clusters are therefore perfectly compatible with my recommendations for curriculum balance for 14 to 16-year-olds.