Perspective: Schools Should Be a Haven for Learning; Sarah Evans Looks at the Validity of Vocational Training

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Evans

The Government has just announced a large grant to increase vocational training in schools.

For at least ten years there have been various attempts to create some comprehensible framework out of the myriad qualifications available.

Work is going on at present into the idea of an overarching certificate where all the qualifications acquired can be given some numerical weighting and shown to have a relationship with each other.

Underpinning the various models is a deeply held belief that any system should attempt to stop us all thinking that one type of qualification - academic - is intrinsically better than others - vocational.

It is strange how we now use the word vocational. We are to have vocational GCSEs. This is largely what the new money is going into. We have vocational A-Levels, the new name for GNVQs. Yet for me the word 'vocational' has strong associations with an approach to the job market which is almost totally at odds with current attitudes.

I remember as a pivotal moment in my early careers education, a Sunday School teacher talking about our vocation. She assured us that there would come a time when we would know clearly what life work God was calling us to do.

Like much else, adult life has proved something of a disappointment in this respect.

Nevertheless for me, a vocation will always be something which is a special calling to serve others, regardless of self and regardless of personal reward.

It is certainly not a plank of much mainstream career guidance today. Yet to find something to dedicate our lives to, which can give it some point and meaning and lift it out of the tawdry scramble for more material goodies, is a longing in many of us, old and young.

But will courses for 14-year-olds on the building trade and tourism satisfy the longing? We have so little time in schools and so many, many years in the workplace.

To turn education into mini industrial training courses is a grave mistake and is a betrayal of our young people. What is the motivation behind it? To ensure commercial organisations don't have to spend too much of their profits on training?

To provide the 'real life' interest that will captivate young people and make them easier to control in school?

Education is about introducing the young to the best of what has been thought and done. …