Six easy steps for a place at the top

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
This government is making creditable efforts to get the world of work on to the curriculum of every school pupil and college student. The awarding bodies are also doing more than ever to give it status rather than seeing it as an afterthought.

But new statutory requirements and official exhortations alone will not do the trick. A big question remains: why did a pound;1 billion injection into schools under the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative of the 1980s leave so little trace of change?

Five obvious criteria for success are identified in this TESOCR Learning Reforms special report. First, funding is crucial. The Government wants the voluntary sector to play a greater role in work-related learning. But all the evidence shows that with no stable funding base, these groups - who deal with the most vulnerable youngsters - are wasting valuable time chasing pots of money that keep changing. It is clear that work experience costs more than keeping pupils in school - more than many schools can afford.

Second, employers do respond to incentives, as the Ofsted reports show.

Public acknowledgement and recognition through Investors in People do much to promote the cause.

Third, there is a need for a better curriculum framework with more space for work-related learning. Here, the Department for Education and Skills is working on guidance that should lead to a national framework. For it to have credibility, it has to be more than a series of edicts; it must help identify the cash needed. Such a framework should reduce costs since everyone would know what to expect.

Fourth, the question of worthwhile qualifications. Where young people on simulated work experience are given credit for what they learn and achieve, motivation increases dramatically. They are not fooled by substitutes for the real thing.

Fifth, what is most obvious is that initiatives will not succeed without long-term partnerships between schools, colleges employers, work placement providers, official bodies, and local authorities. Here is the crux of the problem that followed TVEI. Successive governments had let 100 flowers bloom, but failed to tend to the garden long-term. Too many organisations were working eagerly, but in isolation.

These criteria for success point to a sixth: prestige. Unless all parties believe that the gains will have credence with parents, employers and universities, work-related learning will never find its place at the top table of education. That means it must be taken seriously for pupils and students of all abilities.

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