Response will lead to division

11th March 2005 at 00:00
The Government's response to the Tomlinson report on 14-19 is not only disappointing but also misconceived in one important area. It could lead to a wider division between so-called vocational and academic routes.

Why law and medicine is seen as academic, while engineering is viewed as vocational, remains a mystery. Having a diploma for five grade A*-C GCSEs is actually a policy that looks backwards rather than forwards as it will be seen as devaluing the success of the 50 per cent who at the moment gain qualifications other than five A*-C grade GCSEs.

What exactly academy schools or colleges for vocational skills are is far from clear, but segregating students at age 14 or 16 is the opposite direction this country needs to go in if it is serious about increasing participation at 16 and 17.

The key to success beyond 14-19 is to increase the co-operation between schools, colleges and business. The Tomlinson report had some ambiguity over how the over-arching diploma brought together A-levels and other courses, but delaying decisions on this to 2008 will be far from helpful.

Raising the status of vocational education is an aim I agree with. But I also believe it is necessary that most students do both academic and vocational courses from the age of 14, thereby increasing their options for future study and employment.

Labour is best when it is bold, but the response to the 14-19 agenda is one that will not take this country forward and will do little to improve the opportunities of many 14 to 19-year-olds.

Graham Lane

Newham Cabinet member for education

Newham town hall

East Ham

London E6

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