FE rejects vocational schools proposal

A new type of vocational school should be created because schools and colleges are not up to the job of teaching work-related courses to 14 to 16-year-olds, England's chief inspector believes.

David Bell is expected to use a keynote speech later this year to call on ministers to set up dedicated vocational centres of excellence.

But the idea has been rejected by further education colleges in Wales and the Assembly government. The latter is relying on local networks of schools, colleges and work-based trainers to develop a wider range of vocational and work-related courses for over-14s.

An Assembly government spokeswoman said: "The policy in Wales is for comprehensive non-specialist schools which offer opportunity for all. We believe the best choice and flexibility for young people will be achieved through making efficient and effective use of existing resources."

fforwm, which represents the FE sector in Wales, wants more investment to help colleges prepare for larger numbers of 14-16s, and particularly the problem of duty of care for young students.

But a spokesperson noted: "It seems unnecessary to develop vocational schools when colleges already have first-class facilities to deliver a wide range of vocational programmes to 14 to 16-year-olds."

Critics will accuse Mr Bell of putting the clock back to when the 1944 Education Act created technical, secondary modern and grammar schools which separated children on vocational courses from their academic peers.

But he will argue that schools and FE colleges do not have the resources to provide high-quality vocational education.

And while FE colleges may reach disaffected pupils, there are concerns over whether they can cope with large numbers of 14-16s.

He is expected to say that different institutions, including new vocational centres, should work together to offer a range of options.

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