No technical and professional education pilot until 2019/20

The reforms suggested by Lord Sainsbury’s influential review into technical and professional education (TPE) will not be piloted by the government until 2019/20, FE Week can reveal.

It is also now understood that the peer’s report — which is set to recommend the creation of 15 new “professional and technical” routes with apprenticeship or substantial work experience — will not be published until July 8.

This date is four months after the report was first supposed to be unveiled — with further delays expected as a result to the first skills white paper in a decade, which is believed to reflect the recommendations which will be made by Lord Sainsbury’s independent panel.

The pilot timetable will now be unveiled just before parliamentary summer recess. The delays to the report were welcomed by sector leaders, provided it meant time had been allowed to create properly thought-out and tested qualifications.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, told FE Week: “The TPE reform, combined with the apprenticeship changes, should see a step change providing parity of opportunity through vocational learning.

“It is vital that this is not lost, so if delay and piloting is necessary, we fully support the approach.”

Mr Dawe added that good curriculum and qualification change “takes time”, and insisted that the final framework needs to “ensure that vocational education is not seen as second best and demonstrates clear pathways to high levels of learning and work”.

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said the delays were “unfortunate” but added that it was outcomes “that really matter here”.

He added: “All over the country there are sixth form colleges achieving the highest standards in both academic and vocational curricula, sending countless young people to university or a great job.

“It is vital that they continue to offer young people the opportunity to study A-levels alongside BTECs, in a way that focuses on one or the other and often blends the two, according to the aptitudes and interests of each student.

“The sector is hoping for clarification at the earliest opportunity.”

Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) committee, claimed that the government had been “paralysed” by the EU referendum debate — but when the TPE report and skills white paper finally arrived, they “promise a shake-up of the post-16 sector”.

He added: “It is vital that the government allow time for a proper reflection on these issues so we can ensure we have a system where technical qualifications are valued as highly as academic achievement and one which is better able to meet the skills requirements of a modern economy.”

FE Week reported last month that the Department for Education (DfE) had been prevented from publishing Lord Sainsbury’s report before the referendum on June 23, due to purdah rules governing the release of important information during periods of national campaigning.

The DfE said it would not comment on “speculation”, when approached by FE Week about the pilot and new review release date.

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