The future of 14-19 education is … apprenticeships
10 Dec 14

We visited the Institute for Public Policy Research this week to hear from Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Skills and Equalities, speak on the subject of “14-19 Education: The Way Forward”.

Nick Boles MPIt was a really interesting insight into the reforms that have taken place over the past five years; what has worked and what hasn’t, some of the rationale behind the changes for this age group and what announcements and developments are on the horizon.

In terms of “The Way Forward” there wasn’t as much insight as you’d perhaps expect from the title of the event, but this is only to be expected when we’re just a few months out from an election and with the result so difficult to predict! Mr Boles told the audience that the Political Parties, including his Conservative Party, are currently in listening mode as they begin writing their manifestos – and so he was very interested in thoughts from the audience on some of the key questions currently being pondered within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

It was perhaps telling that so much of Nick’s presentation focussed on apprenticeships, as did the questions and suggestions from the audience. The government have announced that 2 million apprenticeships have been created over this parliament, and at the IPPR we heard about some of the work being done to make apprenticeships more rigorous, valuable and attractive to employers and candidates alike. It was clear that alternatives to university would be something BIS will continue to focus on developing beyond next May.

Certainly in the City, apprenticeships has been a movement that employers have been keen to get in on. Many employers are more likely to offer professional qualifications than the newer vocational training pathways more typical of new style apprenticeships, which makes for a very wide (and sometimes confusing) variety of opportunities available to young people. It’s been extremely exciting for us to be involved, and last year we placed more than 40 young people into apprenticeships and school leaver schemes across banking, finance, insurance and professional services.

There was also interesting discussion around the ongoing simplification of the qualifications framework and how the supply of very specialised 14-19 courses can be balanced with the demand of employers.

One thing to definitely look out for is the future role ‘Big Data’ will play in assessing and comparing schools and colleges. As more and more destinations data becomes available for analysis, and at every finer resolution, we may start seeing measurement shift from “exit” assessments like GCSE and A level results towards what career pupils ultimately go on to work in and how much they earn – potentially even a societal “value added” measure. There was some fascinating speculation about what this may look like, how it might work in practice and the potential risks. While any major shift in focus to destinations data for schools is several years away at least, we were told to expect to start seeing some interesting initial analysis of existing data from BIS in the near future.

We enjoyed contributing to the debate, and will be watching with interest once manifesto announcements begin emerging in early 2015!

If you're interested in discussing apprenticeships further, whether you're a young person, teacher or employer, please get in touch.

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