Last week, for the first time in over 20 years, London hosted the international WorldSkills "Olympics" (30 September) in which around 1,000 young competitors from 51 countries performed a variety of vocational skills to the highest levels, watched by around 150,000 visitors. What a tribute to, and ambassador for, vocational education.
Alongside this coverage, your story entitled "Swords are drawn as sectors do battle over post-16s" offered some dispiriting findings from a study of 500 14-year-olds. While 63 per cent of them identified A-levels as a qualification to be followed post-16, only 7 per cent identified apprenticeships. Worse, the article claimed that some schools hang on to their post-16 learners, even though a vocational route may well be the better option, using a number of decidedly unethical means such as excluding FE colleges from schools careers fairs and banning their literature.
How ironic that all these articles appeared in FE Focus. What a sadly missed opportunity where TES could have trumpeted the world of vocational learning and success by reporting WorldSkills 2011 in the main section of the paper and encouraging school teachers to book places to take their young learners along to see just what can be achieved by determined and talented young people. Instead you have, I believe, inadvertently but regrettably reinforced the widely held assumptions and prejudices about vocational education.
Judith Edwards, Liverpool.