COLUMN: Will your children be education trailblazers?

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Do you know your 13 year-old will be one of the first students who will need to make a choice between the ‘academic’ or the ‘technical’ option after their GCSEs in 2019? 
Will they get that choice right and will it define them for the rest of their working life?

Students who are in year eight now will be the first to experience the latest further education reforms being planned by the government. The reforms are designed to fill skills gaps, improve quality and student choice and raise the quality of technical qualifications to meet employer standards.

In three years, 16 year-olds will be able to follow the different routes at school, college or as part of an apprenticeship or other employer-based programme.
Sounds great – a simplified system that gives employers the skills they need to improve their performance and students the skills they need to get the jobs they want. Or is it? These reforms are to address the skills shortages that are affecting the country’s economic growth and the need to do more with less education funding, but will they give a 16 year old what they need?
The decision to streamline qualifications, giving young people a clearer route through to a career has been welcomed by the National Union of Students. However, a survey they carried out found that 68 per cent of students felt that age 16 is too early to be making choices which have little flexibility and could define their future.

The same survey also pointed out that the quality and quantity of advice and guidance young people were given varied, and as a result nearly half of those asked had switched subjects. As parents and teachers we need to make sure that we are giving young people the best, impartial advice we can based on what their needs and hopes for the future are.

My hopes for the reforms are that they prove that the technical and academic route are of equal value and carry the same esteem.

I hope today’s 13 year-olds will be trailblazers and not guinea pigs for the reforms. I know the team at Chesterfield College will be working hard to get this right for them and I hope local schools and employers will join us in our efforts.