Vocational education: policymakers must change hearts and minds, not just the system, warns National Foundation for Educational Research
20 November 2014
Changing attitudes towards vocational education is the vital next step in transforming our education system into one that is inclusive, productive and world-leading, according to a paper published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
NFER Thinks: Changing attitudes to vocational education welcomes recent moves to provide better quality, more coherent vocational routes for young people, but argues these will change nothing if vocational routes are not chosen by a substantial number of young people. It calls on policy makers to lead the charge in breaking down entrenched views that academic routes are better for all.
Evidence from NFER research points to three factors in young people’s decision-making about what courses and qualifications to take: personal preferences and mindset; school provision (of careers information, for example); and influences from parents and teachers.
To address these issues, NFER proposes:
- Making basic knowledge of the range of options open to young people, and where to direct them for impartial advice, part of teachers’ professional standards.
- Promoting parity of esteem between academic and vocational routes by providing better information to parents, and through a national awareness campaign that challenges perceptions of vocational qualifications as ‘second-rate’ to academic ones.
- More collaborative working between schools, colleges and employers to provide young people with information on academic and vocational routes.
Author Tami McCrone, a research director at NFER, said: “Following recent reforms to improve the quality of vocational education, winning hearts and minds over to its merits is now one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of these qualifications here in England. But this is what we will have to do in order to achieve the elusive parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications. The right attitude is what is needed. An attitude that recognises that young people learn in different ways, are interested in different things, want to have different careers - and that all learning is positive.”
The paper will be officially unveiled this evening by NFER Chief Executive Carole Willis at the charity’s Annual Reception.
NFER Thinks: Changing attitudes to vocational education can be downloaded at /voced
Notes to editors
NFER Thinks: Changing attitudes to vocational education is the latest paper in the series ofNFER Thinks, What the evidence tells us. It is authored by Tami McCrone, an experienced research director in NFER’s Impact Team with particular interest and experience in young people’s pathways from education to employment.
NFER is a charity with a worldwide reputation for providing independent and robust evidence for excellence in education. Our authoritative insights inform policy and practice, offering a unique perspective on today’s educational challenges. Any surplus generated is reinvested in research projects to continue our work to improve the life chances of all learners.
Follow us @TheNFER