Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan announced plans to see vocational options in schools given the same emphasis as academic routes, but it seems that teachers need help understanding vocational options.
Of course, Ms Morgan is right to question why some schools only offered vocational options to the less able pupils and her plan to have apprenticeship providers and former pupils-turned-apprentices go into schools to promote vocational paths is a good one.
However, it seems that many teachers are themselves unsure of the full range of non-academic options available – especially if they themselves took the university route into their own careers.
Vocational options as less desirable than uni?
For years, vocational options were seen as less desirable than going to university, which caused a strong bias towards academic learning – a bias which many teachers would have been exposed to during their own education.
The fact that this route has become expensive and, it could be argued, over-subscribed has seen many look for alternatives, but with teachers having to offer careers advice isn’t it time that we looked at what sort of information they are offering to our young people?
Teachers offering careers advice on vocational options
Teachers are in the unique position of knowing their pupils and therefore being able to offer them a more personalised level of advice, but this is of little use if the teachers themselves are unaware of the options available today. The problem is only compounded if teachers believe that the university option is the best option for the brightest pupils regardless of any career goals or aspirations. It isn’t only teachers who need to understand vocational options – many parents do not understand apprenticeships well enough to offer careers advice to their own children, with many of them believing that apprenticeships are a good option …for someone else’s child.
Speaking to a number of teachers it is clear that many still believe that vocational options are less desirable than academic pathways, and that training such as apprenticeships are only for lower achieving pupils and those who want to go into manual work.
This out-dated view of apprenticeships is not the fault of the teachers themselves, who cannot be expected to become overnight careers experts. That said, with many independent careers advice services being scrapped in the last Parliament the onus has now fallen on schools themselves to provide advice to pupils.
While the new legislation seeks to see school work with training providers, university technical colleges and colleges to make sure students were aware of all the paths open to them, perhaps it is also time to look at offering extra training to those on the front-line – namely the teachers themselves?