Vocational yearning

11th March 2005 at 00:00
As principal of a North-east college serving more than 1,000 teenagers, I view Ruth Kelly's new education proposals to raise the reputation of vocational learning with a mixture of excitement and concern.

There is no question in my mind that vocational learning is the key to sustaining 14 to 16-year-olds' interest and participation in education. As a further education college located in one of the most deprived areas, we understand the demand for vocational skills and believe they offer the right solution to entice thousands of disengaged students across the country back into education.

Some may see the Education Secretary's proposal as falling short of meeting the skills shortage in the UK. The proposal of a diploma in vocational studies is a boost for the reputation of vocational learning, but taking the next step to promote vocational training within the business sector must be a priority.

It would seem that the Government has chosen to cherry-pick recommendations in the Tomlinson report to fit in with the current system, despite the existing support for full exam reform. The Tomlinson report is indicative of progressive views held by those working in education. A four-tier diploma would streamline all existing qualifications to provide greater clarification between ability levels for students and employers. By attempting to fix the traditional system, Ms Kelly has missed a real opportunity to provide a positive long-term solution.

Ian Prescott Principal and chief executive East Durham Houghall community college

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