Ofsted Chief Says Children Should Choose An Academic Or Vocational Future At 14

19/11/2014 12:52 | Updated 20 May 2015

Ofsted chief suggests separating academic and vocational children before GCSEs

Pupils should be 'streamed' into either academic or vocational 'clusters' at the age of 14 to help them get jobs when they leave school, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said teenagers should transfer between schools before sitting their GCSEs depending on their aptitude for an academic or vocational education.

He said the proposal would give teenagers the 'maximum opportunity' to find work.

At the moment, there are 146,000 unfilled jobs because companies can't find staff with the appropriate skills, especially in the financial, transport, communications, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry in Coventry, the Ofsted head said schools should form into local 'clusters' centred around a top-performing school or college, with at least one institution specialising in advanced vocational qualifications.

A new wave of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) has already been set up to teach children a trade from the age of 14.

Pupils could then 'transfer across institutions in the cluster to provide a route to high-level academic or vocational study'.

Sir Michael praised recent Government attempts to improve academic and vocational qualifications.

But he said the false divide between the two would continue unless drastic action was taken to give pupils proper options at the age of 14 – a year before they take their GCSEs.

He said: "If we are to make this happen, not only do we have to have a fundamental shift in attitudes but also in educational structures."

He said some groups of state schools and colleges in England had already clustered together – sharing teachers and ideas – and insisted this 'trend to federation should be encouraged'.

He said: "Wouldn't it be good if at least one of the schools in the cluster had particularly strong vocational provision from 14, perhaps in a UTC or a specialist college?

"Young people could then transfer across institutions in the cluster to provide a route to high-level academic or vocational study.

"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."

What do you think? A return to grammars and secondary moderns or realistic?

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