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The words that define FE

Up until recently, ‘vocational’ was the term of choice for describing further education. But now the sector is most commonly defined as ‘technical’. Why the change? And what does the language of FE tell us about how it is perceived by society? Sarah Simons investigates

Vocational vs technical: What's the difference?

The language used to describe what we do in post-16 education reflects how the sector is perceived by outsiders. It’s confusing.

Up until a few years ago, the word predominantly used to describe the type of learning carried out in colleges and training providers was “vocational”. This term is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “providing skills and education that prepare you for a job”.

Even as recently as 2011, the influential government-commissioned Review of Vocational Education – best known by its alternative title, the Wolf report, after its author, Baroness Wolf of Dulwich – made ...

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