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6 The Nuffield 14-19 Review

Independent research on an emerging phase of education Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours, Institute of Education, University of London

The Nuffield 14-19 Review, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, was launched in October 2003 to spend three years researching major issues to be faced in developing a new 14-19 phase of education in England and Wales. It started its work as the Tomlinson Working Group was deliberating long-term curriculum and qualifications reform. But it has a much more comprehensive brief than that afforded to Tomlinson (2004) and is able to take a broader and more questioning stance.

The Review provides a critical scrutiny of every aspect of 14-19 education and training for England and Wales. It:

  • debates the aims and values that should inform the new phase

  • has critically analysed both the Tomlinson unified diploma system proposals and the Government’s 14-19 White Paper

  • researches the organisational dimensions of 14-19 reform that drive institutional behaviour

  • examines critically the data and statistical base at the heart of government and professional decision-making

  • researches and debates lessons to be learned in the policy-making process

At the same time, this independent multi-dimensional review is examining the wider context for reform by drawing on research on the impact of socio- economic factors on the choices made by young people and the role of labour market trends and employer demand for skills. The Review, while focusing mainly on England and Wales, also positions its findings within an international and UK comparative perspective.

In its first two years the Review has commissioned over 70 papers, which are available on its website, and which were critically discussed by a core group of researchers, policymakers and practitioners in 12 Working Days. The Review also produced Annual Report in November 2004 and November 2005.

The Review argued, in its first Annual Report, that England has moved to a ‘medium participation system’ since the mid-1980s, but that post-16 participation rates have remained static for more than a decade. It suggested that this stasis results from a ‘syndrome’ comprising several ‘system factors’ – a continuing academic/vocational divide; institutional competition and selection and, crucially, the continuation of a marginalised work-based route in a youth labour market that draws young people into low skill work and does not offer sufficient incentives for them to become more highly qualified. In its


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