An end to vocational courses in secondary schools?

I wonder at what point the national employer organisations will wake up to the current trends in the staffing of vocational subjects in our secondary schools. The recent announcement of the bursary levels for those entering teacher preparation courses in 2016 show the removal of the bursary from design and technology students with a 2:2 degree; it was previously £4,000 for such students. This is despite the collapse in trainee numbers in recent years.

Now TeachVac, our job board for teachers, http://www.teachvac.co.uk has recorded far more vacancies in the subject than there are trainees this year, so cutting the bursary is somewhat odd.  Even odder is the absence of Business studies from the bursary list. This is despite TeachVac showing far more vacancies than there were trainees in 2015, with shortages reported almost across the country.

Despite the likely increase in teachers’ salaries in 2016, the funding for School Direct salaried places in design and technology, along with many other subjects, has been held at 2015 levels; a cut in real terms.

However, the effect isn’t ’s severe as it is in primary, where the funding per School Direct salaried trainee has be reduced by between a third and 40% depending on the location of the school. Along with the cuts in the primary bursary, this seems like a high risk strategy that is presumably based on an improvement in recruitment in 2015. Changing the rates from year to year can cause a yo-yo effect that isn’t helpful to either training providers or schools that recruit NQTs. TeachVac staff will be monitoring the UCAS data for evidence of the effects of these changes on the primary sector now we also handle primary vacancies as well as secondary ones.

Returning to the issue of staffing secondary subjects that might feed through employees to the wealth creating part of the economy in the future, I wonder whether the cutbacks are because Ministers only really care about the EBacc subjects and don’t understand the value of early encouragement to think of the value of design and technology for careers in manufacturing, textiles, electronics, the catering and food trades and many other possible jobs not yet imagined.

Perhaps there is a policy to direct such ‘applied’ subjects to 14-18 studio schools and UTCs leaving other secondary schools to concentrate on non-vocational science and art subjects for those wanting to enter higher education at eighteen? This might be a back-door method of creating a selective school system for the 14-18 age group, with most of the new schools being aligned to the further education sector. Of course, it could all be a mistake, and the next ITT census, due out later this month, will show my worries about recruitment in these subjects are a mere chimera.

Along with these subjects that are obviously out of favour, both art and music and the humanities other than pure history and geography don’t seem to feature in the forward thinking of this government. I wonder it is time to ask what the government is trying to achieve with its teacher supply policy for the remainder of this parliament. Perhaps it knows something about the health of the economy we don’t.

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