Headlines: September 14th, 2007

Research released today shows widespread support among parents for changes to the school curriculum to include compulsory vocational learning. The study has been conducted by the educational foundation Edge, using its Parents’ Panel, a unique survey of more than 5,000 parents across the UK.

The results show 68 per cent of parents would support compulsory practical learning and only six per cent are opposed to the idea. Support for hands-on learning, though, falls away as children reach the stage of taking formal qualifications and look to further education. Only 9 per cent of parents told Edge their child would pursue a vocational qualification or Apprenticeship and almost a fifth said they would be actively disappointed if their child ended up in a practical career.

Asked about the kinds of vocational course they wanted to see, half of parents wanted students to be offered a variety to choose from. A quarter thought it should be “a course that teaches skills that are in demand in the job market.” More than one in ten of parents said they would prefer a course teaching practical skills such as carpentry or cooking.

Garry Hawkes, the chairman of Edge, said, “The research clearly shows that there are double standards at play among some parents whereby they are supportive of more practical learning, but not if this results in their child pursing a vocational qualification.” Although it was encouraging to see that parents appreciated the value of practical learning in school it was also clear, he said, that many of them were still reluctant to let their children pursue vocational courses instead of A-Levels or an academic degree.

He went on, “The introduction of the new Diplomas from 2008 will only begin to address the academic snobbery that is preventing some young people from engaging in practical, hands on learning. We are urging all parents to rethink their stance on vocational learning and consider all the routes that their child could follow to success.”