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Vocational Education and Training in Secondary Schools

Published Tuesday, October 22, 2019

This House of Lords Library Briefing contains a selection of material relevant for the forthcoming question for short debate on vocational education and training in secondary schools.

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On 28 October 2019, the Viscount Bridgeman (Conservative) is due to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to strengthen vocational education and training in secondary schools”.


  • The Department for Education has reported the number of vocational qualifications in England in the second quarter of 2019 decreased by 6% compared to the same quarter in 2018. This excludes GCSEs, AS levels and A levels.
  • During the 2016–17 academic year, 33,000 pupils started a GCSE in vocational studies in state-funded schools in the UK. In comparison, the number who began studies in mathematics at GCSE was 565,800.
  • In August 2018, the Department for Education found that students leaving secondary education and entering level 4–5 technical education had difficulties navigating the progression routes into higher education and employment.
  • The standard of careers education and guidance at schools has been criticised. In July 2016, a joint report from the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills and Education Committees described careers education in schools as “patchy and often inadequate”.
  • In 2017, the Government, then led by Theresa May, committed to improve standards of careers education through the creation of career hubs. In May 2019, the independent panel review of post-18 education and funding, commissioned by the Government, stated that careers hubs had made a “promising start”. However, it argued more needed to be done to support their roll-out.
  • In addition to the reforms to careers education, the Government is introducing a new form of qualification referred to as the T-level. The aim of the T-level is to provide an alternative to the academic route into employment provided by A-levels and to reduce the stigma attached to technical education.
  • Schools in England are legally required to invite providers of technical education and apprenticeships to talk to their pupils. This is referred to as the Baker clause requirement. However, in October 2018, the House of Commons Education Committee argued this requirement was not being met at many schools.

Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0135

Author: Edward Scott

Topics: Employment, Schools, Training

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