Culturally, the UK (certainly England) has long held that the only successful way to navigate education and the world of work was purely through academia. Success and virtue, a place in society, and earning potential has been achieved by good grades at GCSE and A level followed by University ‚’ usually culminating in an arts degree. And it is true that no modern society can function without a large highly educated cadre of managers and professionals.
But in concentrating our efforts, resources, and esteem on that, we lose so much else. We are poor at producing engineers, plumbers, electricians, builders; or indeed medical professionals and scientists. These are all, to a greater or lesser extent, seen as vocations and as such not what societies leaders aspire to or value. The result has been years of neglect in policy terms and in funding of ‚’vocational‚’ education. Worse, we write off too many young people who are turned off by the purely academic approach to the detriment of themselves, their families, localities, and society at large. It is no accident that school exclusions peak in Year 10 ‚’ the start of the GCSE process.
There have been any number of revisions to vocational qualifications. There has even been a serious attempt (by Ken Baker) to create an educational environment which focuses on the technical (University Technical Colleges). But these efforts have been too little and under resourced. There are few votes in it, and Government have no interest in it. It is, after all, not who they are.
Now we have a chance to do something. Covid has woken up the country to the value of doctors of nurses; of carers; of delivery drivers; of shop workers. Exams are halted. We can use this as an opportunity to properly re-shape secondary education.