Vocational education in English schools: Protecting options for pre-16 pupils
This report assesses the effects of league table-based school accountability on the provision of high-quality vocational education in England for the 14-16 age-group, which threaten to narrow down the options available to this age-group.
A recent change to the way school performance is measured means that most vocational qualifications will no longer count towards a school's league table score. The effect of this is likely to be a rapid decline in the provision of vocational education for the 14-16 age-group, which serves to demonstrate the sensitivity of vocational education provision to small changes in the accountability framework for schools.
In other countries with successful vocational education systems, we see a completely different relationship between school accountability and vocational provision. School accountability is arguably more rigorous in some of these countries, but in most cases it is decoupled from the school-leaving exams and, by extension, the curriculum content in the latter stages of secondary school. Vocational education also enjoys a high status - it is a mainstream, popular option for pupils, offering a clear pathway to higher education.
The strengthening of our vocational education system entails ensuring that schools are accountable for their provision of vocational learning, shifting away from an accountability system focused on a leaving certificate at age 16, and increasing and expanding 14-19 programmes of vocational study and post-school institutions.