The creation of a national centre for vocational training has been recommended in a report by the Commission on Adult Vocational  Teaching and Learning (CAVTL), published today.

The National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Centre would champion research and development of vocational pedagogy, the report suggested, and would develop a regional network of centres to showcase excellent vocational teaching and learning.

The commission’s chair, Frank McLoughlin CBE, said: “It’s clear there has to be something to hold the centre of the development of the VET system, for things like curriculum design, continuing professional development for staff or technology development.

“All the countries recognised as having best practice, Germany, Switzerland, Demark, have national VET centres or institutes . . . it’s really important for training providers, employers, and people delivering technology to work together.”

The report proposes that any national centre should be developed jointly by training providers, employers, the FE Guild and government, who would work with university and international research experts.

Institute for Learning chief executive Toni Fazaeli welcomed the proposal, saying the time was right for a greater national commitment to FE research.

She added: “Learners and employers rightly expect the practice of teaching, training and learning to be based on sound and groundbreaking research and evidence, rivalling the very best in the world.

There is a caricature that colleges and training providers are just qualifications machines.

“For too long, despite some outstanding contributions, we have lamented the relative paucity of university-led research focusing on FE compared with schools and higher education.”

Mr McLoughlin said the centre could also help with the implementation of the commission’s recommendations around the availability of technology and industry standard facilities for learners.

“The use of sophisticated digital simulation is transforming the place of work, for example around artillery or aero engines,” he said.

“Digital simulation needs a significant investment . . . colleges, training providers and employers could collectively lever money in to the National VET Centre.”

The report also called for the sector to adopt the concept of the relationship between employers and vocational training providers as a ‘two-way street’, where employers were not just customers of vocational education, but were engaged at every level in the creation and delivery of programmes.

“There is a caricature that colleges and training providers are just qualifications machines, separated off from employers,” said Mr McLoughlin.

“It’s largely not true but there are many more opportunities to ensure colleges, training providers and employers work hand in hand.”

Other central recommendations include a nationally specified curriculum where elements could be tailored to local demand  and the introduction of Teach Too, a training scheme to ensure trainers have a dual professionalism as both teachers and experts in their field.

Mr McLoughlin said: “There’s a big prize here. We’ve got the elements of a world-beating vocational system. The measure of the success of our recommendations will be that in 10 years, nobody goes to Germany, Denmark or Switzerland. Instead people will visit the UK to see how we do it.”



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  1. Dr John Reese

    Adult Commission Chaired by Frank McLoughlin – what a waste!

    For over 18 months, the time and the efforts that went into this so called commission, has produced an unworthy and useless report that is not going to take education any where? Is this just an ego trip for a bunch of principals that are disconnected with the real issues? They really don’t know what they are talking about…

    Well the 10 recommendations are below – it is your call to make a judgment:

    1. Adopt the two-way street rather than the provider-purchaser model
    Not sure what this means in educational context. Do the authors think they are running a commodity shop? Very poor and unimaginative concept.

    2. Apply a core and tailored approach to developing vocational qualifications
    What does this mean in practice? New proposals are about defining clearly the value of each qualification. Will a core with small itty bits of tailored extras fit into this new model?

    3. Strengthen professional development including using outside experts under Teach Too
    Good idea. So don’t know why we had to set up a whole commission to repeat someone else’s idea.

    4. Enhance employer presence in qualification design.
    Bleh. Nothing new.

    Wasn’t this what SSC’s are meant to be helping to do? By getting a consensus view?
    The reality is that different employers in the same sector all have different views. The trick is getting the right tool to get these views into one place and make sense of them.

    5. Establish a national VET Centre with an R/D hub

    WHY WHY WHY? Really bad idea.

    We have good R&D in education already: the Institute of Education, the Open University, and in teacher training universities and colleges. We have umpteen centres of excellence for various subjects. Why the division between academic and vocational? Learning is learning. Dividing the r&d according to context is nonsense: how will classroom teaching practice be informed by work-based-learning approaches? And vice versa. This is creating silos for the sake of it.

    Also the summary referred to the increasing use of technology. A new VET centre will be the worst possible place to carry out r&d in ILT. The best places for new ILT are those informal forums that spring up all over the place – not centralized, not controlled. This is where innovation happens.

    ILT Test 1: Ask the table if anyone has been running shared blogs with their students? Used videos to record progress? There are apps to help demo what you are teaching: anyone know of these? Who tweets/ facebooks/links to linked in and the groups therein? Does anyone know about the OpenScience project? Kahn’s Academy? MOOCs?

    ILT Test 2: And the killer one: has anyone heard of Minecraft? This is the 4th most popular computer game globally – but you have to be under 17 to understand it, and VERY imaginative to see how to use in teaching, as it is being used. You might want to look at this to see what I mean about Minecraft http://www.thecommonpeople.tv/

    6. Test and share best practice amongst providers
    Bleh. If this is new, what has the 157 group, AoC etc been doing all these years?

    7. Exploit the growing power of technology
    Bleh, bleh, bleh.

    8. Create teams of specialist English and maths teachers in every college
    Good idea today, tomorrow we will all prefer maths in context.
    And where are they going to get these specialist teachers? Something like 1 in 5 schools do not have specialist maths teachers. We do not produce enough mathematicians.
    Why not instead use resources such as Kahn’s Academy to support teachers to provide the specialist background???? This is where ILT could really work…

    9. Encourage stronger leadership of VET
    YES: particularly increase number of people coming from outside FE and from scientific and technical background. FE mainly recruits from FE! No fresh blood. Let’s pension off all those leaders who have been around too long, who think nothing of paying membership fees to expensive clubs while their staff are being made redundant or begging for teaching resources.

    10. Encourage a more collaborative approach amongst Government and key agencies
    More waste of time commissions and useless reports! Please focus on real issues of modern education and training…