New plans for post-16 education ‘will be seen as another form of the 11-plus’

Proposals mean pupils will be made to choose between ‘academic’ and ‘technical’ pathways at 16 – and could mean sixth forms stop offering vocational courses

Under the proposals, 16 year-olds will be forced to choose between an “academic option” – comprising A levels or applied general qualifications leading on to an undergraduate degree – or a new “technical option”.

Those who opt for the new technical path can then choose between a two-year college-based course (featuring compulsory work experience) or an apprenticeship. Both options will include a “common core” of English, maths and digital skills.

The policies were laid out in a report into technical education by an independent panel, chaired by Lord Sainsbury. The document recommended simplifying the current system so technical education is provided through 15 different routes, with standards being set by employers.

In response, the government will today publish the Post-16 Skills Plan, which confirms it will implement all of the recommendations “where that is possible within current budget constraints”.

The Department for Education and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills are describing the reforms as the most “significant transformation of post-16 education since the introduction of A levels 70 years ago”.

The plans are likely to mean that schools will cease to offer vocational courses, which could pose significant problems for school sixth forms at a time of tighter budgets.

Skills minister Nick Boles said that the new system would build on “the progress we have already made by investing in apprenticeships, and creating a skilled workforce that is the envy of every other nation”. He added: “This won’t just help our young people get the best jobs, but it will also boost our economy benefitting us all.”

But shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden told TES there are fears it will usher in a new era of academic selection, adding there was a “lack of clarity” around many aspects of the plans.

“People will be worried it’s going to be another form of the 11-plus,” he added.

For a full analysis of the changes, see our sister site TES FE News.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoogle GmailShare