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Wilshaw: schools must ensure apprenticeships 'aggressively sold' to pupils

Schools must ensure that apprenticeships and vocational training are “sold aggressively” to students and parents, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

In a speech to a conference held by the CBI business lobby group in Cambridge today, Ofsted’s chief inspector called for a parity of esteem between traditional academic routes and vocational training.

He told delegates it was a “watershed moment in the history of our education system”, and that there had never been a “better opportunity to tackle our lamentable record on vocational education”.

Better-quality school career advice was needed to ensure vocational career paths become as desirable as A-levels, Sir Michael argued.

“High-quality vocational education must be readily available to all pupils in the same way academic education is. It should be seen as a valid option for every student, not as the consolation prize for those who cannot do anything else.”

He added: "Apprenticeships must have parity of esteem with A-levels. They must be sold aggressively to schools, parents and young people. That means that the quality of careers information and guidance must be raised substantially."

Sir Michael also called for employers to take a more active role in promoting vocational training in schools, and said federations of schools could form close links with local enterprise partnerships or chambers of commerce.

“I'd affiliate the schools to specific industries depending on local demand,” he added. “Pupils at all the schools in the cluster would have access to high-quality vocational training from 14, including those who are typically deemed ‘academic high achievers’.

"Students on either path would be free to access the specialist teaching available in the other and would not be stuck in one route.  Let me stress this isn’t about selection at 14, it’s about maximum opportunity at 14.”

Related stories:

Work-based learning must be included in all vocational courses, says OECD – November 2014

Young people lack skills needed for world of work, says British Chambers of Commerce – October 2014

Skills policies failing to meet workplace needs, report finds – September 2014

Education failing to prepare young people for work, employers claims – July 2014

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