Education and Training 14–19: Curriculum, Qualifications and Organization

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Ann Hodgson & Ken Spours

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    About the Authors

    Ann Hodgson has worked as a teacher, lecturer, LEA adviser, editor and civil servant, joining the Institute of Education, University of London in 1993, where she is now a Reader in Education and Faculty Director for Research, Consultancy and Knowledge Transfer. She is a co-director of the Nuffield Review of 14–19 Education in England and Wales, as well as a range of local authority and learning and skills council research and development projects related to institutional organization, governance and curriculum and qualifications reform. Ann has published widely on topics related to post-14 policy, lifelong learning and curriculum and qualifications reform.

    Ken Spours is a Reader of Education, Head of the Department of Professional and Continuing Education and Director of the Centre for Post-14 Research and Innovation at the Institute of Education, University of London. Ken has researched the area of 14–19 education and training for two decades and has published numerous books, papers and journal articles on qualifications reform and education system performance. In 1990 he co-authored the influential Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) document A British Baccalaureate. He was also a member of the Tomlinson Working Group on 14–19 Reform in 2003–4 and is a director of the Nuffield Review of 14–19 Education and Training in England and Wales.

    Preface

    The fact is that the world does move on and change and something that is achievable today simply may not have been yesterday.

    (PA 5)

    A new volume on the reform of 14–19 education and training in England is badly needed. It will be the first research-based book looking at the 14–19 phase as a whole since the Government's rejection of the Tomlinson Report and the launch of its 14–19 White Paper in early 2005. This book is our attempt to provide an analysis of the position in 2008 and to offer ideas for the future, which were not deemed possible three years ago.

    14–19 Education and Training: Curriculum, Qualifications and Organization seeks to communicate with, and to link, different communities involved in 14–19 reform – practitioners in schools, colleges and work-based learning, policy actors at national, regional and local levels and the academic community with its researchers, trainee teachers and students.

    In doing so, the book takes a system-wide view as it describes, and tries to make sense of, a complex set of developments in the implementation stage of government policy. These include qualifications reform and the introduction of the Diplomas, changes in institutional arrangements and the formation of 14–19 Partnerships, the role of apprenticeships and the work-based route and debates about the future organization of 14–19 education and training in England.

    We also try to give a voice to a range of policy actors, working in different parts of the system, who were interviewed as a source of evidence for the book. Their views on the 14–19 phase, government reforms and future possibilities were one of several sources of data we brought together to inform the book's seven chapters, and their quotes are coded (PA) plus their interview number. We also drew on findings from the Nuffield Review of 14–19 Education and Training in England and Wales and from an ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme project The Impact of Policy on Learning and Inclusion in the Learning and Skills Sector. Secondary sources included key government policy documents, academic and professional literature and press and web articles.

    Our starting point is to question the rationale for a 14–19 phase – we do not take it as a given. However, in weighing up the evidence, early in the book we suggest that there are strong arguments for an extended upper secondary phase in England. Nevertherless, we are not convinced that current government policy will be able to produce a strong, inclusive and coherent 14–19 education and training system for all young people. Hence our argument that a 14–19 phase in England still remains largely a ‘policy aspiration’.

    While the book is research-based, it is also informed by debates about a more inclusive and unified approach to 14–19 education and training, which have been part of professional thinking since the late-1980s. This perspective is reflected in different ways across the seven chapters, but our central argument is that a strong and inclusive 14–19 phase should build on the strengths of the English system – bottom-up curriculum innovation, diverse approaches to pedagogy and its offer of a ‘second chance’ post-16 – while also addressing deep-seated problems. In making this argument, the book takes a critical view of policy that perpetuates the academic/vocational divide; competitive institutional relations; employer voluntarism; and top-down politically imposed agendas. We criticise, in particular, an approach to policy that does not provide an explicit long-term vision and does not draw adequately on professional expertise.

    Chapter 1 lays out the rationale for a 14–19 phase, but also highlights the difficulties of realising it in the English context. This chapter uses the lens of international comparison to reflect on the main features, strengths and weaknesses of the English system. In Chapter 2 we provide an historical framework through which to understand how the current distinctive English approach to 14–19 has emerged. In doing this, we focus on the major debates around curriculum, qualifications and organization that have taken place over the last 20 years. In particular, we explain the ongoing controversy about the Government's rejection of the Tomlinson proposals for a unified diploma system. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 describe and analyse the three separate tracks that structure the 14–19 phase: general/academic; broad vocational; and work-based learning. Institutional and governance arrangements, including the emerging 14–19 Partnerships, constitute the focus of Chapter 6.

    The final chapter lays out possible future directions for reform. We describe three positions. The Government's stance is characterized as ‘pragmatic track-based’, because its choice-based 14–19 agenda could be seen to lead to a reformulated triple-track system. The second position is taken by what we term ‘pragmatic unifiers’. They believe that a broad local interpretation of the national reforms and trying to ‘make the Diplomas work’ will eventually produce a more unified system. As ‘systemic unifiers’, we take a third position, in which we argue for the need to view 14–19 education and training within its broader historical and system context. From this position, we argue for a triple shift involving the mutual reform of general and vocational education; the reinforcement of qualifications reform by the creation of ‘strongly collaborative local learning systems’ and by a more devolved and deliberative policy process that provides spaces for regional and local innovation within a national framework.

    Acknowledgements

    We would like to acknowledge the help and support we received from the Nuffield Foundation and our colleagues on the Nuffield 14–19 Review of Education and Training in England and Wales – Geoff Hayward, Ewart Keep, Richard Pring, Gareth Rees and Stephanie Wilde – in researching this book. It was made much more possible too by the one term's study leave we were granted by the Institute of Education, University of London.

    We are also grateful to the following for commenting on early drafts of chapters: Tony Breslin, Stuart Gardner, Maggie Greenwood, Sue Hawthorne, Geoff Hayward, Jeremy Higham, Tina Isaacs, Ewart Keep, David Raffe, Geoff Stanton, Gordon Stobart and Lorna Unwin.

    In addition, we would like to thank the 23 people, representing a wide range of national, regional and local stakeholders and policy actors, who were prepared to be interviewed for this book and provided us with a rich background to 14–19 policy and practice. Particular thanks go to Richard Steer, who organized and participated in the interview process and read through the penultimate version of the whole book to check for consistency.

    As usual we want to recognize the patience and tolerance of our families while we were writing this book.

    Finally, we are grateful for the encouragement and practical advice we received from Marianne Lagrange and Matthew Waters from Sage.

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