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FE must be 'rebuilt' to boost technical and professional education, report says

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FE needs to be “rethought and rebuilt” to provide the capacity to offer cutting-edge technical and professional education, according to a group of experts.

A new report, published today, says the ability of FE to offer high quality technical education at higher levels has been “undermined” by successive government funding regimes.

The report comes from the Centre for Vocational Education Research, which gathered a group of experts together last month to share their vision of what a high quality technical and professional skills education system should look like.

Delegates were asked to consider the sort of curriculum and qualifications and the type of provider needed to deliver such a system.

The seminar was hosted by skills minister Nick Boles and was introduced by Andreas Schleicher, head of education and skills for the OECD.

The report concludes: “FE needs to be rethought and rebuilt to provide the capacity to offer cutting-edge technical/professional education and training both full and part-time to level 4 and above.

“This could best be achieved by rationalisation and specialisation.”

Providers must be able to offer high quality teaching with up-to-date equipment, it says, and there must be better integration between education providers at a regional level, including higher education providers.

However, it says this won’t happen without government intervention, and warns specialist colleges that provide technical and professional education can’t do a good job or attract highly-able students if they are inadequately resourced.

It adds that the current post-16 offer is not good enough for students considering this as an alternative to A-levels.

“For more people to be willing to go done this route, there needs to be a clear and substantive offer of a pathway that leads to a qualification that is valued by employers and by HEIs – and has transparent progression routes in education and employment,” it says.

The finding echo those of FE expert Scott Kelly , whose paper, Raising Productivity by Improving Higher Technical Education, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) last month, says the FE sector is “ideally placed” to play a larger role.

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