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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2012): Education - UK - training

Are we there yet? Vocational education at the crossroads

R. Patel

Local Economy, vol.27, 2012, p. 227-231

According to the Wolf Review, vocational education in England is failing young people because it does not lead to either a university place or a job. Despite being wide ranging in its scope, with some positive proposals, the improvements suggested in the Review will generate mixed results unless other real challenges, such as the focus on quantity rather than quality, a voluntary approach to skills investment by employers, and competition based largely on price, are tackled.

Critical perspectives on professional lifelong learning

S. Kilminster and others (editors)

Journal of Continuing Education, vol. 34, 2012, p. 1-82

Current policies about, and practices in, professional education, training, continuing professional development (CPD) and regulation are frequently based on unexamined assumptions with regard to learning and practice. Learning and practice are often implicitly conceptualised as activities undertaken by individuals with little account taken of the complexities and situated nature of actual practice. In contrast, there is a significant body of academic work within this journal and elsewhere in what might loosely be called the field of professional education which foregrounds practice and understands professional learning as integral to practice. For this reason, the editors of this special issue who have interests in professionals (specifically doctors, pharmacists, adult, further and higher educators, and social workers) and education more generally sought to create a forum in which to explore these issues more deeply. This led to a conference series entitled 'Critical perspectives on professional lifelong learning'. The papers for the special issue were selected from the fourth conference, run in Leeds, UK in January 2010, and they take up a number of themes related to professional learning which emerged through the conference and elsewhere. Ben Kotzee builds on a longstanding critique of Donald Schön's work - that the concept of reflective practice is too individualistic - and extends it to argue that Schön also conceives of practice as individual. David Boud and Paul Hager also take a turn to practice and to the social in their discussion of CPD. In looking at a specific, if unrecognised, example of CPD, Yvon Appleby and Yvonne Hillier pick up a theme from both papers: the challenge to individualised professional development. The final two papers consider new routes to professional education.

Fresh insights into British apprenticeship schemes: a multi-perspective, multi-method approach

T. Oultram

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 20, 2012, p. 51-67

Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s there was a steep decline in apprenticeships from around 240,000 to just 53,000. Since that time successive governments have attempted to reinstate apprenticeships as a route for training young people to enter a trade or profession. This led to a substantial increase with 279,700 apprenticeship starts in 2009/10. This paper aims to show how research that is approached from multiple perspectives, using multiple methods, can help to illuminate the complex and contested nature of the purpose and practice of modern, government-sponsored apprenticeship schemes. Understanding the various participants involved in schemes helps reveal how policy and agendas at the macro level are subsumed and adapted at the micro level to suit different groups. Such an approach provides greater understanding of the plurality of interests and needs at play within the system, opening it up to allow different voices to be heard.

Lifelong Learning Networks

J. Ward, A. Rout and G. Elliott

Research in Post-compulsory Education, vol. 17, 2012, p. 1-142

The Lifelong Learning Networks (LLNs) were established in 2004 and funded through the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). A national Lifelong Learning Network steering group was established to enable the sharing of practice and to take forward national initiatives. Through this group it became apparent that across the country, pioneered by the LLNs, research was taking place, primarily to identify barriers to learning for vocational learners, ways in which these barriers could be overcome and the success of interventions. To prevent this work being lost, a research network was established to collate the work and enable access to it after the funding period of the LLNs ceased. As part of the work of this network a partnership was established with FERA (Further Education Research Association) and their suggestion to publish this special edition of the journal to share some of the research carried out by the networks was very much welcomed. Round, Brownless, and Rout discuss the progression of vocational and workbased learners into higher education. Wood challenges the relevance of the international literature on retention at higher education institutions to students studying at further education colleges. Fisher suggests that participation rates in higher education for vocational learners have traditionally been low, despite numerous attempts to engage students. Raven and Husbands discuss the development and evaluation of a website which aimed to promote progression to higher education for under-represented groups in their network area. Major investigated the experiences and aspirations of students enrolled on advanced diplomas by carrying out interviews and focus groups with students and also staff involved in the development and delivery of the courses. Thomas and Waring examine the progression of further education students with level-three qualifications into higher education. Thomas, Cox, and Gallagher discuss the progression of students on apprenticeships into higher education in the context of widening participation for vocational learners. Shaw examines the choice-making behaviour of students who have progressed onto a foundation degree at a further education college. French takes up a new theme and discusses labour market participation of Eastern Europeans across Staffordshire and Derby.

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