Facts and Figures

Updated November 2016.

This section attempts to complement the other sections of this website. I have started including information on the Welsh, Scottish and Irish technical education systems.

In 1560 250,000 tons of coal mined.

In 1620 35,000 tons of pig iron produced.

In 1660 between 1660-1668 number of patents issued for inventions 31.

1n 1688 68% employed in agriculture by 1871 figure decreased to 20%.

In 1688 % of national income – Agriculture 40%, Commerce 5.6%, Manufacturing/Mining/Building 2.1%

In 1690-1699 number of patents issued for inventions 102.

In 1700 between 1700 and 1801 the populations of some of the key industrial cities increased as follows: Manchester 8,000 to 95,000. Liverpool 5,000 to 78,000. Birmingham 5,000 to 73,000. Leeds 8,000 to 53,000. Sheffield 5,000 to 45,000. Nottingham 9,000 to 28,000 and Glasgow 12,000 to 84,000. By 1830 the population of Manchester was 180,000.

In 1700 coal production in Britain 2,985,000 tons.

In 1700 30% of economy based on industry and 40% on agriculture. 2.7 million tons of coal mined.

In 1730-1739 number of patents issued for inventions 205.

In 1750 general level of literacy in England was 60% for males and 35% for females.

In 1750 Stationary power sources in Britain: Steam – 5,000, Water – 70,000, Wind – 10,000 giving a total of 85,000.

1750 £86,000 worth of cotton produced.

In 1750 only about 15% of the population lived in towns by 1900 it was 85%. 30% of coal consumption was for industry/manufacture. 4.7 millions of coal mined.

In 1754 over 2,000 Charity Schools established.

1760-1769 number of patents issued for inventions 477.

In the 18th century there were eighty-nine guilds in the City of London.

In 1760 between 1760 and 1830 the population increased from 7.5 million to 14 million and by 1851 it stood at 21 million.

In 1760 between 1760 and 1820 number of waterwheels in England increased from 70,000 to 120,000.

1769 between 1769 and 1804 a remarkable set of inventions and innovations in iron production, steam power and textile machinery.

In 1770 British manufacturing was worth £43 million of which £10 million was exported. £248,000 worth of cotton produced.

1775 between 1775 and 1800 Boulton and watt sold 164 pumping engines of which 49 went to Cornish mines.

In 1777 -75 Newcomen steam engines operating in Cornish mines.

In 1780 by the end of 1780 40 Boulton and Watt steam engines had been installed – 20 being located in Cornwall.

In 1780 Between 1780/1789 number of patents for inventions issues 477.

In 1783 Accepted date for the introduction of the factory system.

In 1788 There were 85 furnaces in operation producing 68,000 tons, in 1806 225 furnaces producing 250,000 tons and in 1823 266 furnaces producing 455,000 tons.

In 1788 50,000 mule-spindles in Britain.

In 1791 there were 73 coke furnaces in England – producing 67,548 tons of iron. 12 coke furnaces in Scotland producing 12,480 tons of iron. In addition 20 charcoal furnaces in England producing 8,500 tons of iron. 2 charcoal furnaces in Scotland producing 1,000 tons of iron.

In 1798 Newspaper regulation and newspaper taxes increased.

In 1798 total number of students who had attended Manchester Academy was 137 of whom 89 were destined for commerce and industry.

In the early 1800s Britain produced 258,000 tons of pig iron by 1851 this had risen to 2.7 million tons most of which was converted into wrought iron.

In 1800 10 million tons of coal mined in GB. £756,000 worth of cotton produced.

In 1800 Adult literacy in England 53%.

In 1800 coal production in Britain 15,045,000 tons.

In 1801 % contribution to the national economy 32.5% from agriculture, 23.4% from manufacturing, mining and building and 17.4% from commerce.

In 1801 in England and Wales there were two universities for a population of 8.8 million whilst in Scotland there were four universities for a population of 1.6 million.

1801 English spoken by 20 million people.

In 1801 contribution to national income from coal production 1%.

In 1806 250,000 tons of pig iron produced by 1854 figure stood at 3,070,000 tons and in 1884 at 7,812,000 tons.

In 1806 Cotton industry employed 90,000 factory workers and 184,000 handloom weavers.

In 1810  Gross Public Expenditure on Education , Arts and Science was £110,000

In 1811 Luddism at its height between 1811 1nd 1812 and relatively active between 1811 and 1817.

1811 4,600,000 mule-spindles in Britain.

In 1811 66% of labour employed in agriculture.

In 1811 total manufacturing output was £130 million of which £40 million was exported.

In 1813 There were 2,400 power looms and 212,000 handlooms  in operation and by 1850 number of power looms was  250,000 and 43,000 respectively.

1817 Mechanical Institution founded in London – short lived but formed basis of the London Mechanics’ institution founded in 1824.

In 1818 25% of children of the poor were receiving some form of education.

In 1819 Hazelwood School founded (1819-1837).

In the 1820s 4,000 miles of navigable waterways were opened.

In 1821 % distribution of the labour work force in Britain:

Agriculture/forestry/fishing 28%, Industry/mining/building 38%, Trade/transport 12%, Service/Public/all others 21%.

In 1823 ‘The Mechanics’ Magazine’ published edited by Thomas Hodgskin and Joseph Robertson.

In 1823 London had 122 miles of gas mains by 1834 this had risen to 600 miles.

In 1823 During 1823/1824 session Edinburgh School of Arts enrolled 317 students composed of the following:

91 Joiners/Carpenters/Cabinet Makers. 24 Masons/Marble-Cutters. 13 Smiths/Engineers/Iron Founders. 8 Printers. 8 Bookbinders/Stationers. 7 Tailors. 6 Millwrights. 6 Painters. 5 Farriers. 5 Plasterers. 5 Shoemakers. 5 Brass Founders. 5 Mathematical Instrument Makers/Opticians. 5 Bakers. 5 Weavers/Warpers. 5 Upholsterers. 4 Silversmiths/Jewellers. 4 Tinsmiths/Coppersmiths. 3 of each – Tanners/Engravers and Coachmakers = 9. 2 of each – Clock and Watch Makers. Architects. Hatters. Hair Dressers. Plumbers. Flax Dressers. Farmers and Brewers = 16 . 6 Teachers. 6 Pupils of Blind Asylum. 54 Shopmen/Merchants’ Clerks. 1 of each – Dentist/Musical Instrument Maker/Surveyor/Dyer/Gardener/Diecutter/Turner and Saddler = 8 and 7 with no trade identified.

In 1825 Aberdeen’s Mechanics’ Institution library held 500 volumes, Carlisle 300, Kendal 400, Liverpool 1,800, Manchester 600, Newcastle 700 and Sheffield 1,400.

In 1825 22.0 million tone of coal mined.

In 1826 Estimated that there were 109 Mechanics’ Institutions and 5 Literary and Scientific Institutions.

In 1826 Journeymen Steam Engine,Machine Makers and Millwrights Society founded.

In 1828 Society for the Protection of Children Employed in Cotton Factories introduced.

1828 Between 1828 and 1853 the price of books halved.

In 1829 Grand General Union of Operative Spinners founded.

In the 1830s approximately 60% of all schools were private.

In 1830’s employment in the cotton industries 425,000 which represented 16% of British manufacture jobs and 8%of GDP.

In 1830s Liverpool and Manchester spent £15.000 and £18.000 on building their respective Mechanics’ Institutions.

In 1830 Gross Public Expenditure on Education, Arts and Science was £100,000

In 1830 Stephenson produced his Planet locomotive.

1830 4 Fellowships in Natural Science at Oxford and 3 at Cambridge. 28 Fellowships in Mathematics at Oxford and 102 at Cambridge,

In the late 1830s 107,000 children <18 years of age employed in the cotton industries – approximately 29% of the total workforce.

In 1830 Stationary power sources in Britain: Steam – 160,000, Water – 160,000, Wind – 20,000 giving a total 340,000.

In 1831 Estimated that there were 107 Mechanics’ Institutions and 6 Literary and Scientific Institutions.

In 1832 Railway mileage constructed 39, in 1835 – 201 miles, in 1844 – 810 miles, 1846 – 4540 miles and by 1850 – just 7 miles.

In 1832 approximately 500 co-operative societies in existence with over 20,000 members.

In 1833 ‘Chambers’ Information for the People’ published. Cost of teacher training £20,000, in 1852 risen to £ 164,000 and by 1870 figure stood at £895,000.

In 1835 ‘Chambers’ Educational Course’ published.

In 1833 100,000 power looms and 250,000 hand-looms in operation in Britain.

In 1835 1,369 steam engines in textiles mills in Lancashire and West Riding. 106,000 power looms in GB. 106,000 power looms in GB.

1836 London Working Men’s Association founded.

In 1838 there were 20 Literary and Mutual Improvement Institutions in London with 6,050 members.

In 1839 State grant for education £30,000.

In 1839 3,051 steam engines and 2,230 water-wheels in textile industries in Britain.

In 1840 Over 1,600 coffee houses in London – the majority of customers were artisans and many houses had an educational purpose.

1841 agriculture employed approximately 1.3 million people employment reached it maximum in 1851 namely 1.7 million.

In 1841 there were 73,215 members of 17 professional groups/associations.

In 1841 only 114,000 civil servants and ‘other so-called educated people’ employed out of a total of 6.5 million working people.

In 1841 Estimated that there were 305 Mechanics’ Institutions and 44 Literary and Scientific Institutions.

In 1842 Estimated Trade Union membership was 100,000 (approximately 1.5% of the labour force).

In 1844 Rochdale Pioneers store established.

In 1845 £67 million spent on creating just over 2,000 miles of railways.

1847 teachers certificates first instituted.

1848 Railway mileage 4,600.

In 1849 there were 2,000 coffee shops some provided libraries and supported debating societies. Number of certificated teachers 681 and by 1859 this figure had risen to 6,878.

In 1849 6.031 miles of railway track in GB. Iron output 2 million tons and 60,000 tons of steel.

In 1850 there were four universities in England and Wales– Durham and University College London had joined Oxford and Cambridge – the population was then 17.9 million whilst the population of Scotland stood at just 2.8 million.  Public Libraries Act allowed the establishment of libraries from the rates.

1850 Between 1850 and 1875 Britain comprised between 20% and 25% of the world trade.

In 1850 Gross Public Expenditure on Education, Arts and Science was £370,000.

In 1850 2 million tons of iron produced costing £3/4 per ton. 60,000 tons of steel produced costing £50 per ton.

In 1851 Estimated that there were 698 Mechanics’ Institutions and 136 Literary and Scientific Institutions

In 1851 2.5 million tons of iron ore produced and by 1870 it was 12 million tons.

In 1851 % of national income Agriculture 20.3%, Commerce 18.7% and Manufacturing/Mining/Building 34.3%.

In 1851 there were 8 universities in UK and only two schools of engineering at London and Glasgow. 50% 0f the British population lived in towns.

In 1851 Great Exhibition housed in Crystal Palace designed by Joseph Paxton measured 1,848 feet long and 454 feet wide. Joseph Paxton received a reward of £5,000 for this work in the Crystal Palace.

In 1851 300,000 panes of glass produced for the Crystal Palace, 4,500 tons of cast/wrought iron and 6,000,000 cubic feet of timber used in its construction. Employed 2,260 men at the peak of its construction.

In 1851 2.7 million tons of pig iron produced.

In 1851 the profit from the Great Exhibition was said to be £186,436.

1851 % of children aged between 10 and 15 employed in England and Wales was 30% and in Scotland 25%.

In 1851 30% of children aged between 10 and 15 were working and 42,000 were under 10 years of age.

In 1851 manufacturing represented approximately 32.7% of the total labour force this decreased to 30.7% by 1881.

In 1851 the national census stated that in England and Wales there were 1,545 evening schools for adults with 39,783 pupils and for Scotland 438 schools with 15,071 pupils. Subjects in England and Wales included mathematics (135 schools), arithmetic (127) and geography (344) schools).

In 1851 Census reported 2.14 million learners with an average of over 4 years schooling. The Newcastle Commission reported that there were 2.54 million in 1859.

In 1851 there were 14,000 dame schools in existence.

1851 1,100 teachers had obtained teacher certificate.

1851 Percentage of employment in England and Wales – Agriculture 20.9% (In 1881 11.5%), Mining 4.0% (1881 4.8%), Building 5.5% (1881 6.8%) and Manufacturing 32.7%  (1881 30.7%).

In Scotland – Agriculture 22.7% (In 1881 14.2%), Mining 4.0% (1818 5.0%), Building 5.2% (1881 6.7%) and Manufacturing 36.5% (1881 33.8%).

In Ireland Agriculture 48.4% (In 1881 41.1%) Mining 0.4% (1881 0.4%), Building 2.0% (In 1881 2.4%) and Manufacturing 22.8% (1881 16.0%).

1851 Proportion of children aged 10 to 15 employed: England and Wales and Scotland.

England and Wales 30% (1851), 19% (1881) and 14% (1911).

Scotland 25% (1851), 16% (1881) and 9% (1911).

1851 Estimated percentage of the British labour force:

Agriculture, forestry and fishing – 21.7%, Manufacture, mining and industry – 42.9%. Trade and transport – 15.8%. Domestic and personal – 13.0% and Public, professional and all other – 6.7%.

In 1851 1.8 million employed in agriculture, 1.0 million domestic service, 811,000 in cotton/woolen industries, 243,000 shoemakers and 216,000 in coalmines.

In 1851 Great Exhibition – Open for 141 days, 6 million visitors, 7,351 exhibitors from Britain and 6,556 from other countries.

In 1854 64.7 million tone of coal mined.

1855 Tax on newspapers abolished.

1855 Between 1855 and 1859 overseas trade as proportion of national income was 17.9%.

1856 Coal mined was 65 million tons

In 1857 between 1857 and 1866 the total number of honours graduates in chemistry was 11 at University College London and 14 at Owens College Manchester.

London Working Men’s Colleges Enrolments between 1854 and 1860:

















Clerks etc.









Manchester Working Men’s Colleges Enrolments in 1858 Terms:





Clerks, book-keepers, warehousemen shop-keepers, shop-assistants and teachers












In 1860 between 1860 and 1897 the number of honours chemists in English universities and university colleges totalled only 859.

In 1860 between 1860 and 1897 only 859 chemistry students graduated in English Universities and University Colleges.

In the 1860s the ratio of average wages between ‘skilled’, ‘semi-skilled’ and unskilled workers was approximately 5.00: 3.3: 2.4 and in cash terms skilled £60-£67 per annum, semi-skilled £46-52 and for unskilled £20-41.

In 1861 between 1861 and 1911 the number of students in the civic universities increased from 560 to 14,042. (Civic universities Manchester (1850), Leeds (1874), Sheffield (1879), Liverpool (1881) and Bristol (1876). Tax on paper abolished.

In 1861 Between 1861 and 1898 total amount of funding for the provision of technical schools buildings was £94,339.

In 1861 there were 400,000 power looms in operation.

In 1862 there were 15,000 miles of telegraph lines in Britain.

In 1862 the cotton industry employed 452,00 factory workers and 3,000 handloom weavers.

In 1862 3,450 university students in Scotland.

In 1863 over 450 retail stores had been founded on the pattern established by the Rochdale Pioneers.

In 1863 first underground railway system created – Paddington to Victoria Street.

In 1864 population in England and Wales 21,000,000.

In 1867 there were 226 Sunday Ragged Schools, 204 day schools and 207 evening schools providing free education to 26,000 poor children.

In 1867 at the Paris Exhibition Britain only gained 10 honours out of a possible 90.

In 1867 212 Science Schools with 10,230 students.

In 1867 there were 1.3 million ‘skilled’ workers , 5.0million ‘semi/lower skilled’ and 4.5 million unskilled workers.

In 1868/69 Liverpool Working Men’s Association had over 1,500 paying members.

In 1868 Joseph Whitworth offered £3,000 per year to endow 30 scholarships  ‘for the future education of young men in the theory and practice of mechanics and its cognate sciences’

In 1868 memberships for various professional bodies were: Royal Zoological Society 2,923. Royal Botanical Society 2,422. Anthropological Society 1,031. Royal Society 528. Meteorological Society 306. Entomological Society 208. Ethnological Society 219 and Chemical Society 192.

In 1870 between 1870 and 1875 42% of men employed in the engineering crafts had fathers in the same trade. Figures for boilermaker and shipbuilder crafts were 46% and 64% respectively.

1870 Coal mined was 110 million tons.

1870 Railway mileage 13,600.

1870 World manufacturing output by Britain 33% and in 1913 was 14.1%.

In 1870 Gross Public Expenditure on Education, Arts and Science was £1,620,000.

In 1870 Stationary power sources in Britain: Steam – 2,060,000, Water – 230,000, Wind – 10,000 giving a total of 2,300,000.

In 1870 the Ragged Schools Union had 132 school members – others existed outside the Union.

1870 Between 1870 and 1874 overseas trade as a proportion of national income was 22.1%.

In 1870 number of Fellowships in Oxford and Cambridge was Classics 145 (Oxford) 67 (Cambridge). Mathematics 28 (Oxford)  102 (Cambridge) . Science 4 (Oxford) 3 (Cambridge).

In 187o there were 15 training colleges for men, 15 for women and 3 colleges with mixed membership.

In 1870 between 1870 and 1885  School Boards provided new accommodation for 2,211,299 pupils.

Actual Expenditure on Education and Science between 1871 and 1890:


Education Spend (£)

Science and Art Spend (£)




























Source: ED 23/71.

In 1871 there were 5,560 students in British universities and 38,015 in technical education.

1871 Number of people employed in agriculture 1.6 million (20% 0f labour force).

1871-1872 actual expenditure on education in Britain £1,107,430 of which £211,083 was on science and art (19%).

In 1872 only 12 persons were reading for the natural science tripos at Cambridge whilst in Germany there were11 Technical Universities and 20 other Universities.

In 1872 42 million spindles at work in cotton mills.

In 1872 of the 449 Fellowships in Oxford and Cambridge 212 (46%) were in the classics, 125 (27%) in mathematics and just 7 in the natural sciences. (Devonshire Commission findings).

In 1875 Agricultural Engineers Association founded.

In 1875 expenditure on education was £2,200,000 and by 1884 had increased to 2,800,000. Expenditure on museums and libraries in 1884 was £130,000.

In 1875 average wage earned by boys in cotton mills was 24.5p and adults £1.13.

In 1875 6 million tons of iron produced costing £3/4 per ton. 2 million tons of steel produced costing £30 per ton.

In 1875 Iron output 6 million and 2 million of steel.

In 1876 school leaving age was 10.

1878-1879 actual expenditure on education in Britain was £2,732,534 of which 305,324 was on science and art (11%).

In 1880 the UK’s share of manufactured goods was 41.4% of the world output by 1913 it was 29.9%.

In 1880 Institute of Chemistry membership was 324. Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1,178 membership increased to 1,566 and 5,583 respectively in 1900.

In 1880 only 40,000 employed in the chemical industries – very small when compared with those employed in textiles.

1880 16% of children attended Board Schools. Legal school leaving age was 10.

In 1881 Census data showed that there were 9,400 engineers and 1,200 scientists – first time this detail was sought in a national census.

In 1881 there were 148,302 members of professional groups/associations.

In 1881 Between 1881 and 1914 non-manual wage-earning jobs increased from 2 million to 4 million.

In 1881 % of children aged between 10 and 15 employed in England and Wales was 14% and in Scotland 9%.

In 1882 there were 909,000 students in schools of art and 69,500 in schools of science.

In 1884 number of companies 9,344.

Amount of Whisky Money spent in London between 1890 and 1902/03:


Whisky Money given to L.C.C.


Amount spent on technical education £










The money grants made available by South Kensington of the Whiskey money tended in many cases to be spent more on science than on technology. (G. Balfour, Educational systems of GB and Ireland. Clarendon Press 1903). However the whiskey money was instrumental in bringing into existence 12 polytechnics in London, 13 in the provinces and more than 100 science schools.

1888 Trade Union membership stood at 750,000.

1889 between 1889 to 1902 Whiskey Money provided 12 more Polytechnics and technical institutions in London and 13 more in the provinces and more than 100 organised science schools.

In 1889 only 40,000 people employed in the British chemical industry – indicated the indifference by Britain towards to the ‘newer industries’ also low figures in the developing the electrical industries – particularly of interest when compared with the numbers employed in America and Germany.

In 1890 probably fewer than 10% of skilled workers in engineering had experienced any form of formal training.

In the 1890s Department of Science was spending £200,000 a year on technical education with approximately 170,000 students.

In 1890 Britain’s share in world trade in manufacturing decreased from 40.7% in 1890 to 29.9% in 1913, to 19.8% in 1955 and to 8.7% in 1976. Provincial universities produced approximately 100 graduates.

In 1890 Between 1890/92 £342,000 whisky money raised and given to LCC but nothing for technical education.

In 1890 Gross Public Expenditure on Education, Arts and Science was £5,800,000

In 1890 35,000 miles of railway track in GB.

In 1891 tramway system created in Leeds – Roundhay Park.

In 1891 Census it was reported that the number people employed in:

Professional and their subordinate services was 507,870. (In 1931 Census 746,085).

General and Local Government was 144,300. (In 1931 Census 293,108).

Commercial occupations 416,365. (In 1931 Census 2,071,420).

In 1893 school leaving age was 11.

In 1893 expenditure on education was £5,400,000 and on museums and libraries was £290,000.

In 1893 £200,000 whisky money raised and given to LCC £ 29,000  spent on technical education.

In 1894 Agricultural Education Association founded.

In 1885 first tramway system started in Blackpool.

In 1890 35,000 miles of railway track in GB.

In 1891 tramway system created in Leeds – Roundhay Park.

In 1892 Trade Union membership stood at 1,576,000.

1893 Association of Technical Institutions (ATI) founded initial membership 17.

In 1895 out of 53,000 certified teachers only 29,000 had received two years’ training in a training college the rest having passed the Acting Teachers’  Certificate Examination.’

In 1897 there were 23,256 evening students enrolled in the London Polytechnics.

In 1898 between 1898 and 1904 there was an annul enrolment in book-keeping of 17,000, shorthand of 29,000 , needlework of 18,000 and manual training of 1,700.

In 1899 of the 24,145 boys leaving London’s elementary schools approximately 66% went into unskilled jobs.

In 1899 school leaving age was 12.

In the late 1800s Department of Science spent approximately £200,000 per year nontechnical education.

In 1900 the number of full-time technical students per 100,000 0f population was: 12.8 in USA. 7.9 in Germany and 5 in England.

In 1900 estimated number of TU members was 750,000.

In 1900 Germany was producing five times more scientists and technologists than in England.

In 1900/1901 5.9% of central government revenue spent on education.

1900 Number of scientists and technologists produced in German Universities and Technical High Schools was 500% greater than produced in English Universities and University Colleges.

In 1900 polytechnics in London increased to 8.

In 1900 expenditure on education was £8,800,000 and on museums and libraries was £400,000.

In 1901 population of UK 38.237 million.

In 1900 the population of London was 4.5 million, Glasgow was 760,000, Liverpool 685,000 and approximately 500,000 in Manchester and Birmingham.

In 1901/02 the public expenditure on technical education in England was £1,008,947 of which £862,002 came from the State grant under the C|ustoms and Excise Act and £146,945 from local rates.

In 1901 there were 17,839 students in British universities and 285,444 in technical education.

In 1901  % share of employment – agriculture/forestry/fishing 6% and in manufacturing/mining/building 40%.

1901 Number of people employed in agriculture 1.3 million.

In 1901 contribution to national income from coal 6%.

In 1901/02 107,000 students of technology studied in German technical universities compared with fewer than 3,000 students in Britain.

In 1902 Between 1901/02 £200,000 whisky money raised and given to LCC £180,000 spent on technical education.

In session 1904/05 approximately 50 students attended classes at Sunderland Technical College in engineering and shipbuilding.

In 1904 500 polytechnic students were studying for London degrees.

In 1904 ATTI founded.

In 1904 In Liverpool out of 1,313 entries for science and technology only 150 were enrolled for ‘advanced classes’.

In 1905 of a survey conducted by ATI with 59 firms only 19 allowed some form of day-release i.e. just 30%.

In 1905/06 there were 83 engineering apprentices at Manchester school of Technology.

in 1905 236 million tons of coal mined in GB.

In 1906 23 Polytechnics in London and 110 in the Provinces.

In 1906 in session 1906/07 approximately 500,000 students over 17 years of age enrolled in evening classes.

In 1906 it was estimated that 14.6% of the workforce in engineering, shipbuilding and railway carriage and wagon building were apprentices. Harland and Wolff’s shipbuilding in Belfast reported 13% of their workforce were apprentices.

In 1906 in session 1906/07 the % of evening students to day students in Manchester (30.2). Halifax (31.6) and London (29.3).

In 1906 there were about 1,200 Adult Schools in England-850 for Males and 350 for females.

In 1907 between 1914 out of 3,318 science graduates 1,077 (33%) were teaching in elementary schools. Shows again the indifference employers had for science and technology graduates. Cardwell stated at this time 70% to 75% chemistry graduates were teachers.

In 1907 600 full-time students reading science and technology at Imperial College, London.

In 1908 only 3,000 students attended full-time courses at technical schools and provincial universities.

In 1908/09 number of pupils from grant-earning schools in England and Wales progressing to university 695 (Boys) and 361 (Girls)

In 1909  29% of engineering apprentices and 51% shipbuilding apprentices were indentured.

In 1909 there were 4,000 Ft and 750,000 PT students in technical institutions.

In 1909 75% of youths below 14 and 17 received no kind of education.

In 1910 in 1910/11 session there were 639,000 students attending grant aided establishments of FE (mainly evening classes/institutions).

In 1910 4% of children attended grammar schools.

In 1910 Provincial universities produced 500 to 600 graduates.

In 1910 there were 16,000 engineering students in German Technical High Schools and only 4,000 in British Universities. 5,500 graduate chemists in German industry compared with 1.500 in British industry.

In 1911 there were 221.729 members of professional groups/associations.

In 1911 life expectancy for men 47 and for women 55.

In 1912 111 Trade Schools existed in Britain.

In 1911 a survey showed that there were approximately 14,000 day students in technical institutions and 765,000 evening students. (Cotgrave).

In 1913 5.8% of the 14-16 age cohort were in full-time education in grant aided schools/colleges.

In 1913 Britain share of world trade in manufacturing was 25.4% compared with 37% in 1883.

In 1913 37 Junior Technical Schools with 2,900 students.

In 1913 187,000 students in grant aided secondary schools.

In 1913 chemical industries in Britain accounted for only 11% of the world trade output compared with 34% by US and 24% by Germany.

In session 1913/14 number of students in university and technical institutions: Scotland-8,000 (population 4.8 million), Germany-90,000 (population 65 million), Ireland-3,000 (population 4.4 million), Wales-1,200 (population 2.0 million) and England-17,000 (population 34 million).

In session 1913/14 number of full-time students of science and technology Germany-17,000 (population 65 million) and in Britain-6,456 (population 40.8 million)

In 1914 there were 2,500 FT students in engineering and technology in English universities and technical institutions.

In 1914 estimated number of  TU members was 4,145,000.

In 1914 800 full-time reading science and technology at Imperial College, London.

In 1914 number of companies 62,762 (77% private).

In 1914 expenditure on education was £31,800,000 and on museums and libraries was £ 700,000.

In 1914 only about 7% of the male population were receiving any form of trade instruction. (Thomson Committee 1918).

% of Full-time Students in Science and Technology in 1913/14 and 1922/23:










  • Not all institutions made returns so figures are not precise.

In 1914 a solicitor in Britain earned an average of £568 per year, a doctor £395 whilst an engineer earned £292 per year.

In 1918 school leaving age was 14.

In 1920 Gross Public Expenditure of Education, Arts and Science was £43,2000,000

In 1921 population of UK was 44.027 million.

In 1921 220,000 students attended technical colleges.

In 1921 number of day time students in technical education was 22,000 this doubled by 1938 to approximately 44,000.

In 1921 there were 34,591 students in British universities, 1,400,000 students in technical education, 12,256 in JTSs and 362,000 in grant aided secondary schools.

In 1921/22 the Board of Education (BoE) recurrent annual expenditure on education was £51 million and was still £51 million in 1938/39 and varied between £40 and £50 million in the years between.

In 1922 APTI founded initial membership 70.

Between 1922 and 1938 the proportion of science students decreased from 19.2% of the total number of students to 16.2% and the proportion of technology students from 12.5% to 11.3.%

In session 1924/25 number of pupils from grant-earning schools in England and Wales progressing to university: 1,912 (Boys) and 1,330 (Girls).

In 1924 the total population of London Central Schools was 27,179 and in secondary schools (aided and maintained) was 31,282. (London stats. 1929/30. 1931.

In 1925 1,573 engineering companies in Britain employed only 26 Apprenticeship Masters.

In 1925 between 1925 and 1930 71 new chairs were created in Universities – 4 in technology, 15 in science and mathematics and 39 in the arts!

In 1925-26 session there were 211 State Scholarships held by boys and 173 by girls in English Universities.

In 1925-26 session there were 31,039 maintenance grants held at universities, secondary schools and technical schools

In 1926 Unemployment rate was 12.5%.

In 1928 Unemployment rate was 10.8%.

In the 1930s % of elementary school children going to JTSs was approximately 2.6% (boys) and 1.4% (girls).

1931 life expectancy for men 58 and for women 65.

In 1931 there were 37,255 students in British universities , 1,820,991 ? students in technical education, 21,945 in JTSs and 411,000 in grant aided secondary schools.

In 1932+ Number of employees released for study: 1932/33 26,296. 1935/36 32,810. 1937/38 41,539.

In 1932 Unemployment rate was 22.12%.

In 1932 Number in attendance at elementary school 5,634,213, Number leaving elementary school 523,059 and number leaving for employment 416,769.

In 1934 Research expenditure: Universities, learning societies and independent foundations – £1,500,000

Government finance: Defence – £2,000,000. Industrial Research – £600,000. Medical Research – £150,000 and Agriculture Research – £200,000.

In 1934 Number of trade ( junior technical) schools 194 with an attendance of 22,158 and an annual output of 10,000.

In 1935 there were 12,336 full-time students in technical, commercial and art colleges in England and Wales this increased to 187,000 in 1965 and part-time day study increased from 67,417 to 681,000 and those in evening institutes from 437,367 to 1,252,518 and those following adult education in all its forms from 50,796 to 218,881.

In 1935 53 day continuation schools in existence – 46 LEA controlled and 9 provided in private firms.

In the session 1935/36 the numbers of Advanced Students in Science, Technology and Agriculture:

Mathematics: Full-time-86 (Male). 3  (Female).  Part-time-38  (M), 6 (F). Biology: Full-time-1 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 0  (M), 1 (F). Botany: Full-time 91 (M), 24 (F).  Part-time- 17 (M), 20 (F).

Chemistry:  Full-time-472 (M), 30 (F).  Part-time-78 (M), 7  (F). Applied Chemistry:  Full-time-46 (M), 0 (F). Part-time-25 (M), 1  (F).  Full-time-Bio-Chemistry: 40 (M), 11 (F). Part-time- 6 (M),  4 (F).  Geology: Full-time-34 (M), 5 (F). Part-time- 6 (M), 1 (F).  Mineralogy: Full-time-5 (M), 0 (F). Part-time: 0 (M), 0 (F).

Physics: Full-time-200 (M), 12 (F).  Part-time-39 (M), 5 (F). Aeronautics: Full-time- 22 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 1 (M),  0 (F). General Engineering: Full-time-24 (M), 0 (F).  Part-time-2 (M), 0 (F). Chemical Engineering: Full-time-42 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 1  (M), 0 (F). Civil Engineering: Full-time-43 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 7 (M),  0(F). Electrical Engineering: 61 (M), 1 (F). Part-time- 10 (M),  0 (F). Mechanical Engineering: 35 (M), 0 (F). Part-time-15  (M), 0 (F). Mining: Full-time- 3 (M),  0 (F). Part-time 3 (M),  0 (F). Fuel Technology: 35 (M), 0 (F). Part-time-15 (M), 0  (F). Glass Technology: 17 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 4  (M), 0 (F). Metallurgy:  Full-time- 39 (M), 0 (F). Part-time- 12 (M), 0  (F).  Oil Technology: Full-time-6 (M), 0 (F). Part-time-1 (M), 0  (F).

Textiles: Full-time-25 (M), 0 (F). Part-time-4 (M), 0  (F). Agriculture: Full-time-32 (M), 3 (F).  Part-time-2 (M), 0 (F) and Horticulture: Full-time 2 (M), 1 (F).  Part-time-0 (M), 0 (F).

In 1935 number of pupils in elementary schools 5,424,000. Number leaving for employment 380,000.

In 1935 12 Universities increased to 44 by 1965.

In 1935 12 universities with 40,392 students and approximately 3,079 full-time academic staff.

In 1935 19 students per 10.000 of the population in full-time advanced education by 1965 this figure had become 73 per 10,000.

In 1936 over 100,000 evening classes in England and wales with approximately 2.5 million class entries.

Day-Release of Employees between 1932/33 and 1937/38:







(You can see the growth was rather slow over this period).

In 1937 there were just 19,000 pupils in secondary schools at the age of 18 and only 8,000 Higher School Certificates were awarded and approximately 4.000 out of the 663,000 school leavers went on to university whilst 13,000 attended Junior Technical Schools (JTSs) in 1937.

In 1937 29,431 pupils in JTSs compared with 484,000 in grant aided secondary schools.

In 1937 During session 1937/38 number of students in colleges FT- 12,712. PT -49,462 and Evening -1,114,598 giving a grand total of 1,176,772.

In 1937 11% of children attended grammar schools.

In 1937 between 1937 and 1938 and between 1949 and 1950 the number of students in art institutions more than doubled e.g. full-time 6,000 to 15,000 and 62,000 to 129,000 respectively.

In 1937/38 student numbers in grant-aided establishments of FE were 20,000 full-time, 89,000 part-time and approximately 1,094,000 in evening classes.

In 1937/38 only 20% of children leaving elementary school at 14 received any kind of full-time Further Education.

Comparison of Students in Technical Education between 1937/38 and 1954/55:

Mode of attendance






Part-time day









In 1938 the number of full-time students in FE (excluding art schools) in England and Wales was 42,000 (c.f. 4,000 in 1909) and part-timers was 1,280,000 (c.f. 750,000 in 1909). There were 4,090 f-t teachers in FE (excluding art schools).

In 1938 only 13% of working class 13 year olds were still in school.

In 1938 51,000 day release students and 20,000 F-T.

In 1938/39 only 5,000 students studied applied science out of a possible 50,000 in the UK whereas 20,000 studied humanities.

In 1938  In 1938/39 session 7,661 full-time  students studied pure science, 5,288 technology and 1,043 agriculture and horticulture.

In 1938/39 universities enrolled 6,000 Applied Science students compared with 22,000 Art students.

In 1938/39 41,000 students attended on day released this figure increased to 496,000 in 1964/65 (only included 79,000 female students).

In 1938 % of 14 year olds in secondary schools 38% and for 17 year olds 4%.

In 1938 In session 1938/39 number of degrees awarded in science 2,167and 1,048 in engineering.

In 1938-1939 session there were 41,000 day release students in England and Wales.

In 1938/39 the number of f-t students in technology at graduate level was 5,288 this increased to 10,933 by 1949/50 and the corresponding figures for post-graduate students were 662 and 1,539.

In 1939 there were 9,100 students in technical education over the age of 17 and 1,600 over 21 years of age- mostly part-time and the wastage was very high at 50%!

In 1939 there were 10,278 students of science and technology courses as opposed to 9,852 in 1922 – again reflecting the lack of interest in these subjects.

In 1939 number of part-time day release students was 42,000 increasing to 241,487 in 1949 and 0ver 300,000 in 1953.

In 1939 Gross Public Expenditure on Education, Arts and Science was £65,300,000.

In 1939 number of university students in science and technology was 12,949 increased to 27,759 by session 1950/51.

In 1943 number of graduates from universities in applied science was 1,051 first degree and 65 higher degrees.

In 1943 university output was 1,051 first degree and 65 higher degrees in applied science and its maximum was reckoned to be 1,600 per annum (1,354 excluding Polytechnics and external degrees) whereas the country need at least 3,000 per annum.

In 1944 the tripartite system of secondary school education introduced in England and Wales ceased in early 1970s whilst in Northern Ireland existed from 1947 to 2009. Three types of institutions namely Grammar – taught academic curriculum, Secondary Technical Schools (see biography on this website) designed to train pupils adept in mechanical and technical subjects aimed at producing scientists, engineers and technicians. Secondary Modern Schools (called Secondary Intermediate Schools in N.I.) trained pupils in practical skills and prepared them for less skilled jobs. System was meant to have parity of esteem but in reality did  because of inadequate resources – I attended a secondary modern school and was aware of the differences between the schools within the tripartite system – teachers were great but not supported by government or LEAs.

Number of Students (x000s) Released by Major Industries between 1946 and 1957:




































































In 1945 from 1945 to 1952 teachers’ certificates awarded:

Dressmaking – 1,149. Needlework – 401. Tailoring – 8. Millinery – 25 and Cookery 532.

In 1946/47 159,000 students received instruction in 400 colleges and technical institutes.

In 1947 the following Regional Advisory Councils for FE had been established:

London and Home Counties, Southern, Western, West Midlands *, East Midlands, East Anglia. Yorkshire*, North Western*, Northern and Wales and Monmouthshire*.

  • Already in existence under this title or another.
In 1947 Number of evening institutions 5,076 with 826,000 students.
In 1947 680 establishments provided full-and part-time courses – twice the number in 1938. Student numbers increased from13,727 (1938) to 31,512 (1947)
1947 Between 1947 and 1957 number of students in technical education doubled from 600,000 to 1,200,000 majority studied part-time and evening. During this period building funded increased from £5 million to  £15 million.

In 1948 number of pupils in elementary schools 4,281.  Number leaving for employment approximately 300,000.

In 1948 manufacturing contribution to national economy was 41%

In 1949 in1949/50 session there were 2.4 million students attending grant aided FE institutions.

In 1949/50 7.7% of central government revenue spent on education.

In 1950 30% of 15 year olds, 14% 16 year olds and 7% 17 year olds were in full-time education in schools or colleges in England and Wales.

In 1950 approximate percentages within the tripartite system of secondary education was: 20% in Grammar Schools, 5% in Secondary Technical Schools and 75% in Secondary Modern Schools.

In 1950 nuber of scientists needed 70,000 only 55,000 available – deficiency 15,000. Barlow Committee Report).

Between 1947 and 1957 the numbers of students in technical education went from approximately 600,000 to nearly 1,200,000.

In 1951 population of UK 50.287 million.

In 1951 within a total workforce of 23.912 million there were 60,930 scientists and 80,770 engineers.

In 1951 The Emergency Training Scheme (Teacher training programme introduced after the WW2) ended having trained more than 23,000 males and approximately 12,000 females.

In 1951 The work force comprised the following statistics : Young workers 15-44 – 43.1%. Older workers 45-59-  21.0%. Total workers 64,1%. Children <15 22.4% while older workers 13.5% (For Men 65+ and for Women 60+). Note in 1971 the figures were: 40.3%, 22.3%, 62.6%, 19.7% and 17.7& respectively.

In 1952 During session 1952/53 number of pupils in: Secondary Technical Schools 97,000. Secondary Grammar Schools 686,000 and Secondary Modern Schools 1,440,000.

In 1952 during session 1952/53 out of 2,061,718 students in all grant aided establishments 1,061,038 were women.

In 1952 Size of companies with 11 to 24 workers – 17,177. 25 to 99 workers – 25,103. 100 to 499 workers – 11,600. 500 to 999 workers – 1,481. 1,000 workers – 634. and 2.000+ – 352.

In 1952 during session 1952/53 entries in classes in domestic and women’s subjects: Full-time – 1,198. Part-Time – 19,113 and Evening 555,072.

In 1952/53 2,700 students were successful in taking the HNC Mechanical Engineering course.

In 1952 During session 1952/53 number of students in colleges FT -57,182. PT -353,o49 and Evening – 1,829,185. Giving a grand total of 2,239,416.

In 1952 during session 1952/53 7,188 students attended part-time catering courses in the evening.

In 1953 70 industries formally had adopted national agreed training schemes – what take up was very patchy with local implementation and knowledge of the schemes weak.

In 1953/54 APTI membership 230.

In 1953/54 ATTI membership 5,500 FT and 500 PT.

In 1953 up to 1953 76,000 women had taken examinations in various women subjects  staged by CGLI and 8,800 held the teachers certificate.

IN 1953 Number of evening institutions 9,483 with 1,037,000 students.

In 1953 there were 1.9 million people (7.8%) of the UK workforce employed in engineering and related activities.

In 1954 The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee reported that 40,000 Britain engineers were required each year when only 25,000 were being produced.

In 1954 Membership of ATI 240.

In 1953 In 1953/54 number of degrees awards in science 5,160 and 2,337 in engineering

In 1954 there were 34,400 students in Public Sector Higher Education (AFE).

In 1954 of the 400,000 school 15-17 year olds entering insurable employment more than 80% did so at the age of 15 and with no formal qualifications.

In 1954 Royal Institute of Chemistry had 13,651 corporate members. Institute of Physics had 2.806 corporate members.

In 1955 only 1.2% of secondary modern school pupils stayed on after 15.

In 1955 Number of qualified scientists in Britain 60,930 and engineers 80,770 out of a total workforce of 23,912,000.

In 1955 Number of non-qualified engineers in Britain 30,148 .

In 1955 number of scientists needed 90,000 only 68,000 available – deficiency of 26,000 (Barlow Committee Report).

In 1955 institute of Biology had 1,150 full members, 299 probationers and 299 student members.

In 1956 between 1956 and 1962 the number of schools leavers increased for around half a million to nearly three quarters of a million after 1963 figure declined.

In 1956 In 1956/57 38,747 full-time students studied pure science, 12,496 technology and 1,914 agriculture and horticulture.

In 1956 the White Paper Technical Education defined technical workers as:

1. Technologists. Possessed the qualifications and experience required for membership of a professional institution. These consisted of at least HNC plus ‘endorsement’ subjects plus practical experience in the field.

2. Technicians. These would have undergone specialist training with practical work and would require a good understanding of mathematics and science. Hey would normally work under the supervision of a technologist.

3. Craftsmen. These represented the skilled labour of industry. They were required to know not only ‘how’ but also ‘why’.

Also the Paper described the four main categories of award namely:

  1. University degrees.
  2. Technical college diplomas.
  3. National Diplomas and Certificates:

OND – 2 years full-time.

HND – 3 years full-time (OND+HND =5 years in all).

ONC – 3 years part-time.

HNC – 2 years part-time (ONC+HNC= 5 years in all).

  1. City and Guilds:

Intermediate Certificates -2/3 years part-time.

Final Certificates – 1/2 years part-time.

Full Technological Certificates – consisted of tests on the original technology plus ancillary subjects e.g. management.

In 1956 Number of qualified scientists in Britain comprising 20,692 chemists, 11,482 maths. 10,482 physicists, 4,838 biologists, 894 geologists and 2,838 others.

In 1956 96% of factories in manufacturing employed less than 500 people.

In 1956 only 0.6% of workforce in Britain were qualified scientists and engineers.

In 1957 there were 28 direct-grant FE establishments with a total of 2,500 full-time and 6,000 part-time day/evening students. These direct-grant establishments for FE were not analogous to the direct-grant secondary schools being more under the control of the MoE than LEAs.

In 1957 In 1957/58 number of degrees awarded in science 5,345 and 2,658 in engineering.

In 1958 there were 15,369 full-time teachers and 50,000 part-time teachers in technical colleges, art and evening institutions.

In 1958 number of 18-20 year olds released 69,483 and 21+years old 36,918.

Total number released of all ages 309,255.

In 1958 number of adult students studying in adult centres increased from 0.8 million in the late 1950s to approximately 1.9 million in 1978 after which the numbers declined to approximately 750,000 in 2010/2011.

In 1958 the Crowther Report recorded that 683,000 pupils in grammar schools and >1.5 million in secondary modern schools and just 95,000 in secondary technical schools.

In 1958/59 approximately 200,000 students enrolled on craft courses.

In 1958 Number of evening institutions 8,299 with 977,000 students.

In 1958/59 Students enrolled on ONCs was 140,000 and 40,000 on HNCs which had an industrial character.

In 1958 16,288 students followed full-time courses of acceptable standard in colleges of technology and were in receipt of major awards.

In 1958/59 approximately 450,000 students in FE were studying industrial programmes for technicians, craftsmen and operatives – 14,000 were on full-time or sandwich courses, 283,00 were attending part-time/block-release and 152,000 evening only courses.

In 1958/59 Students enrolled on ONDs was 1,600 and 3,100 on HNDs which had an industrial character.

In 1959 20% of students attending advanced courses were from Secondary Modern Schools i.e. they had failed the 11+ examination – I was one of them!

Employment by Sector in UK in 1961 and 1978:


Number in 1961


Number in 1978


% change 1961to 1978

Total employed :




H.M. Forces




Civilian employment




Agriculture, forestry and fishing




Mining and quarrying












Gas, electricity, water




Transport and Communications




Other services




Total central government




National health




Total local authorities








Health and social services




Total Central and Local government (excl Forces)




Public corporations




Total public sector (excl. Forces)




Total public sector (incl. Forces)




Source: ‘Employment in the Public and Private Sectors’. Semple. M. Economic Trends 313, November 1979 pp 90-108.

Interesting to note the changes across the employment sectors during this period!

In 1960 there were 264 Secondary Technical Schools in existence. 145 admitted students at age 11, 14 admitted students at 12 and 101 at age 13.

In the 1960s approximately 3% of British manufacturers employees were apprentices compared with 5% for Germany.

In 1961 220,128 students still attended ‘all age schools’ by 1965 this figure had declined to 9,376.

In 1961 only 34% of boys and 7% girls leaving school entered apprenticeships or learnerships in skilled occupations (Ministry of Labour figures).

In 1961/62 Universities enrolled 28% of students reading Humanities, 4% Education, 11% Social Studies, 25% Pure Science, 15% Technology, 2% Agriculture and 15% Medical Subjects.

In 1962 7.2% of women enrolled in full-time HE courses compared with 9.8% of men – the figures for part-time HE were even starker 22% for men and 8% for women.

In 1962 % of 14 year olds in secondary schools 100% and for 17 year olds was 15%.

In 1962-1963 session 31 universities enrolled 118,000 full-time students.

In 1962 113,000 students qualified for university entry (14.5% of age group) and only 30,000 enrolled for university study (4% of age group).

1962 between 1962 and 1970 first degree graduate output increased from 22,000 to 47,600. In 1975 1st degrees were 70.000 and by 1980 had increased to 102,000. Because of demographic decline the figure grew more slowly so in 1987 in was 127,000.

In 1963 33% grammar schools in Wales, only approximately 22% in England and over 70% in secondary modern schools.

In1963-1964 session  University of London awarded 1,302 internal and external degrees to students.

In 1963-1964 session 164 higher degrees awarded in science and technology in colleges in England and Wales.

In 1964 College of Technologists (CoT) accepted 137 applications for registrations – 12 awarded in 1964. CoT merged with CNNA.

In 1964-1965 session number of non-advanced courses i.e. for craftspeople, operatives and technicians for industry was 840,000 with approximately 83% working towards recognised qualifications.

In 1964-1965 session 148,000 students studied GCE subjects in colleges.

In 1964-1965 session number of students at FE colleges enrolled in courses to recognised qualifications in England and Wales was males 836.000 and for females 161,600 giving a grand total of 998,200 DES stats 1965.

In 1964-1965 session there were 1,900 students in colleges in England and Wales taking higher degrees and other research postgraduate qualifications.

In 1964-1965 session there were 496,000 day release students in England and Wales.

In 1964-1965 session 16,000 students of the total 20,000 were on advanced sandwich courses at colleges in England and Wales taking Dip. Tech or HND in a proportion of 5:3.

In 1964-1965 session approximately 33% of advanced students were attending on evening only basis.

In 1965 41% of boys and 6% of girls leaving school entered apprenticeships or learnerships in skilled occupations.

In 1965 240,000 apprentices this declined to 53,000 in 1990.

In 1965 8,500 adults in Government Training Centres which were run by the Ministry of Labour – 2,700 were disabled.

In 1965 there were 622,000 technicians and other technical supply staff of which 400,00 were employed in manufacturing industries, 72,000 in the public sector of industry, 46,000 in construction and 89,000 in central and local government.

In 1965 65 LEAs proposed plans to abolish the tripartite system and create comprehensive schools.

In 1965 8,070,000 employees – 663,000 were in manufacturing factories with less than 50 employees, 1,748,000 in firms with less than 100 and 4,011,000 in firms with less than 500 employees.

In 1965 602,000 students of all ages in receipt of part-time release in England and Wales.. 51,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 17,000 on sandwich courses and 33,000 on ‘block release’.

In 1965 467.000 people employed in agriculture spread over 399,603 holdings – 61% less than 50 acres and 78% less than 100 acres.

In 1965 of the total number of technical staff employed in the country 17% held a degree/HND/HNC, 14% an OND/ONC and 9% the Technical Certificate of CGLI the remaining 60% had other qualifications, in-house training or no formal training qualification which had been assessed by an examination.

In 1965 number of students receiving part-time release in England and Wales was 602,000. The numbers for Scotland and Northern Ireland contributed another 51,000 17,000 were on sandwich courses and 33,000 on block-release.

In 1966 the normal minimum requirement for initial enrolment for courses in colleges was set at: 25 for full-time (including sandwich programmes), 15 for courses involving a large % of practical/workshop work and 20 for all other part-time courses. (Circular 11/66).

In 1966 there were 13 ITBs representing 7.5 million workers in various industries.

In the 1950s/1960s the courses offered in the major FE colleges could be listed as:

Advanced – Post-graduate research, post-graduate courses including then the MCT, Dip Tech, Final university degree courses, Final examinations for professional institutions, HNDs and HNCs.

Senior Courses – ONDs, ONCs, CGLI final examinations, CGLI intermediate examinations, Intermediate degree examinations and GCE Advanced level examinations.

Junior Courses – GCE ordinary level examinations, General education courses, Adult education courses and Recreational courses.

Enrolments in these courses for 1954/55:

Mode of attendance

Advanced courses

Senior Courses

Junior Courses





Part-time (own time)




Part-time (released)








In 1968 the minimum specified time for technician courses was 180 hours per year, 220 for part-time students and 280 hours for students attending 1 day and evening. All ONC schemes required 240 hours for vocational subjects plus 90 hours for general studies. HNC schemes required 240 hours for vocational subjects and 60 to 90 hours for general studies.

In 1968/69 24 colleges in England and Wales received a 75% grant towards for delivering number of advanced courses.

In 1968 644,000 day release students and 244,000 F-T and sandwich courses.

In 1969 between 1969 and 1975 linked courses between colleges and schools expanded rapidly to approximately 140,000.

In 1969 in 1969/70 there were 326,000 teachers in England and Wales of whom 52,268 (16%) were trained graduates, 20,898 (6.4%) untrained graduates, 159,548 (48.9%) non-graduates (1-2 year training), 79,771 (24.5%) non-graduate (3 year training).

In 1969 Number of Public Sector Higher Education students (AFE) 190,200.

In 1969 approximately 40,000 part-time teachers and approximately 9,000 full-time teachers in technical colleges.

In 1970 % of 17 year olds in secondary schools was 26%.

In the early 1970s employers recruited >100,000 apprentices this declined to 40,000 by 1983/84.

In the 1970s % of 18 year olds in non-higher technical vocational education: In Germany- 51.8% (1979). Denmark-30.3% (1977). France-6.7% (1979) and Britain- 5.7% (1976).

In 1970/71 the number of institutions providing vocational art and design courses was 309 comprising 58 art colleges, 20 polytechnics (designated or proposed), 10 specialist colleges and 221 other FE establishments – total number of students 9,844 full-time and 8,742 part-time (included block-release students). In addition approximately 5,000 students on vocational art and design courses in a range of establishments by evening study.

In 1971 population of UK 55.928 million.

In 1972 TOPS introduced expanded very rapidly and in March 1978 approximately 95,000 people enrolled including 22,000 under 19 years of age.

In 1972 between 1972 and 1978 the proportion of women on TOPS programmes rose from 8% to 44%.

In 1974 6,500 subject entries for the CEE.

In 1974 Number of Public Sector Higher Education students (AFE) 210,200.

In 1975 20,000 out of the 60,000 TOPs trainees completed courses in engineering and construction.

In 1975/76 adult educational centres provided for approximately 1,797,257 students.

In 1976 number of students on all modes of attendance in:

Polytechnics-192,697, Other maintained major institutions-1,693,230, Direct grant, including voluntary colleges-36,047 and Adult Education Centres- 1,797,257 giving a grand total of 3,719,231.

In 1976 number of full-time students in FE colleges in England and Wales was 76,403 (61,068 males and 15,335 females).

In 1976 Number of NAFE students FT-287,000 and 682,000 0n evening courses. Note approximately 16% on GCE courses.

In 1976 there were 76,403 FT teachers in FE colleges. 14,000 teachers in Polytechnics, 57,867 teachers in other maintained major institutions, 3,808 in direct grant establishments and 719 FT or divided service in adult education centres..

In 1976 there were 287,000 students enrolled on full-time day NAFE courses and 682,000 on NAFE evening courses.

In session 1977/78 3 FE Colleges were offering the International Bacc with approximately 100 students most of whom were overseas.

In 1978 there were 149,989 full-time equivalent students in polytechnics and 41,914 full-time equivalent students studying advanced programmes in other institutions.

In 1979 there were 26,000 employees in Jobcentres and Employment Offices and another 9,ooo in Skillcentres and approximately 1,400 civil servants employed at MSC. There were 600 Jobcentres.

In 1979 approximately 40% of the 700,000 school leavers who found employment received no training and only 20% received 8 weeks or less training.

In 1979 1 in 8 people entered HE – in the 1960s it was 1 in 17 and by 1994 it was 1 in 3.

In 1980 some 90,000 young people began apprenticeships-10% fewer than in 1979.

In 1980 there were approximately 73,000 members of NATFHE, Approximately 1,000 of Association of Agricultural Staffs (AAS),  500 for Association of College Principals and Approximately 2,600 for Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AACE).

In the 1980s participation rate of 17 year olds in education and training were: West Germany full-time 50% and part-time 47%, Japan full-time 90% part-time 0%, France full-time 63% and part-time 12% and in UK full-time 33% and part-time 35%.

In 1980 manufacturing share of economy was 26%

In 1980 there were approximately 140,000 students on link courses (links between schools and colleges).

In 1981 unemployment rate was 6.3% with 35% of all unemployed under 25.

In 1982 500 companies involved in Young Enterprise(YE) – YE enabled young people to set up an company, sell shares and market a product to mirror real business practice.

In 1984 in Britain approximately 9% of workers benefited from job-related training and by 1990 this had risen to about 15% but these increased were from a relatively low base. (HMSO Training Statistics 1991).

In 1985 expenditure per FT equivalent student in Universities £5,170. Polytechnics £ 3,150 and Voluntary and Direct Grant Colleges £ 2,950. 

In 1986 the staying on rate for post-16 year olds in England was approximately 46%.

Staying-on Rates in Various Countries in the 1980s:

Full-time education and training

16-yr olds


17-yr olds


18-yr olds


16-18-yr olds

UK (1988)





W. Germany (1987)





France (1986)





USA (1986)





Japan (1988)





Source: Statistical. Bulletin 1990.

In 1985 over 50% of British companies did not offer any formal provision for management training.

In 1985 700,000 youth school leavers had entered the YTS – 4,000 managing agents involved and approximately 160 Information Technology Centres (ITECs) had provided 6,000 places.

In 1985/86 approximately 50,000 people had benefitted from support of the Open Tech.

In session 1985-86 expenditure per FTE student in universities was £5,170, £3,150 in Polytechnic and £2,950 in voluntary/direct grant colleges . (Note in maintained schools net recurrent institutional expenditure per pupil was £1.040). DES Bull 14/87. 

In 1986/89 52% of the work-force received no training in Britain (Training Agency 1989). In Britain about 36% of workers possessed some form of vocational qualifications the figure in Germany was 67%.

In 1986 about 20% of British managers held degrees or professional qualifications in Germany the figure was 63% and in America 85%.

In 1987 Participation rates of F-T education in Britain 50% (16 year olds) and 35% (16-18 year olds)

In 1987 only 30% of companies in Britain possessed a training plan and only 19% of those establishments made any assessment of the benefits of training and only £5 attempted to gauge the benefits against cost. (Training Agency 1989).

In 1987 approximately 100,000 (about 20%) of British school-leavers entered jobs that offered no training. By contrast 93% of West German school leavers entered apprenticeships, further schooling or university.

In 1987/88 Number of HE women students in Polytechnics 148,000 FT and 84,000 PT and in Universities 133,000 and 59,000 respectively.

In 1987/88 Number of HE men students in Polytechnics 157,000 FT and 151,000 PT and in Universities 188,000 and 73,000 respectively.

In 1987 52% of the workforce received no formal training. (CBI).

In 1988 45.6% of entrants to universities and polytechnics were female.

In 1988 the staying on rates in UK were: 50% for 16 year olds, 35% for 17 year olds and 20% for 18 year olds. Giving 35% for 16 to 18 year olds. c.f. these figures with those of Japan namely 92%, 89%, 50% and 77%. Also compare with France 78%, 68%, 52% and 66%. (DES 1990).

In session 1989/90 full-time participation rate at 18 for Scotland was 25% (i.e. entry to HE) compared with 17% for the whole of the UK.

In 1989 school leavers highest qualification with 2 or more GCE ‘A’ level 15%, 1 GCE ‘A’ level or equivalent  40%, Low level below O level 35% and no qualification 10%.

In 1990 only 1 in 200 school leavers became graduate engineers and just 3% of school leavers had GCE ‘A’ Mathematics and Physics.

In1992 20% 0f people employed in UK were over 50 years of age.

In 1995 43% of 16 year olds in education and training were in FECs and 6th form colleges (approximately 450 colleges).  14% of 16 year olds in education and training were on work-based provision.

1995 there were180 NTOs/Lead Bodies/Occupational Standards Councils.

In 1996/97 enrolments in Wales was 191,000 with approximately 50% studying ‘A’ or ‘AS’ levels comprising Full-time 17,625 (Male) and 20,569 (Female), Part-time and Block release 17.566 (M) and 28,785 (F), Part-time evening and other 17,029 (M) and 31,716 (F). (FEFCW 1996/97).

In 1996 approximately 70% of full-time teachers of engineering possessed a teaching qualification.

IN 1996 GNVQ registrations exceeded 180,000 with achievement rate of approx. 55% compared with 70% for BTEC National and ‘A’ level.

In 1996 approximately of engineering teaching delivered by part-timers.

In 1996/97 there were 75,600 students on AMAs in England and Wales -these increased to 87,700 in 1997/98.

In 1997 manufacturing contribution to national economy was  approximately 20%.

In 1997/98FEFC returns showed a 3% decrease in numbers between sessions 1997/98 and 1998/99.

In 1997 Number of Employees by Occupation:


Number (x000)


Managers and administrators



Professional occupations



Associate Professional and Technical



Clerical and secretarial



Craft and related



Personal and Protective



Sales and related



Plant and Machine Operatives



Other occupations






Source: Business Strategies Ltd 1997 in Labour and Skill Trends 1998/99.

In 1998 there were 82,000 MAs started.

In 1998 14 million people held an NVQ level qualification.

In 1998 the year activity survey showed an increase of 0.6% stay on in f-t education at 68.5% and was 82.1 moved to some form of learning after completion of compulsory education and an increase of 7.8% of young people in employment with a planned programme of on and off job training.

In 1998 by the end of 1998 65 NTOs had been established.

In 1998 RDAs went live. (On 1st April).

In 1999 there were 81 approved sectors for AMAs and 50 for FMAs.

1999 51 frameworks for National Traineeships were approved and recruited 54,900 trainees.

In 1999 5% of degree entries held BTEC ONC/OND qualifications this increased to 9% in 2009 (HESA 2010).

In 1999 there had been 223,000 students (January) but 101,000 (43% had left New Deal.

In 2000 enrolments in Welsh Colleges post-16 were: 25% on full-time, 40% on block-release and 3.5% on open and distance learning. 60% of the students were female and 25% under 19. (FEFCW).

In 2000 participation rates were: Full-time education 70.7% (Age 16) and 58.1% (Age 17), Government supported training 8.2% (Age16) and 11.1% (Age17),

Employer funded training 3.1% (Age 16) and 5.6% (Age17), Other education and training 4.8% (Age16) and 5.6% (Age17). Totals 86% and 79.9% respectively.

Note at 18 the figure was 60.2% (36.8% full-time).

In 2000 by the end of August number on New Deal were on the following options: 77,800 young people in f-t education and training. 35,800 on the voluntary sector option and 34,100 on the environmental task force option. (DfEE).

In 2000 NTOs represented companies with a workforce size as follows: Over 1 million employees – 5 NTOs. Between 750,000 and 1 million – 2 NTOs. Between 500,000 and 750,000 – 3 NTOs. Between 200,000 and 500,000 – 16 NTOs. Between 50,000 and 200,000 – 27 NTOs and <50.000 – 15 NTOs.

In 2000 enrolments in FE sector (1/11/2000) was 2,334,800 compared with 2,424,400 in 1999 (1/11/1999).

In 2000 between 2000 and 2002 HE expenditure increased from £5.4 billion to £5.8 billion.

In 2000 level 1 and entry level to FE up 81.9% since 1994 – and represented over 26% of the total provision (17.3% in 1994). Level 2 up 29.1% since 1994 and represents 31.3% of total provision (29.3% in 1994), Level 3 up 3.7% since 1994 and represents 39% of total provision (a decline from 46.2% in 1994) and levels 4,5 and HE down 50.3% and represented only 2.9% of total provision (7.2% in 1994).

In 2000 there were 3,722,610 businesses in UK – of these 70% (>2.6 million) were sole traders. <7,000 were large companies (250+ employees) , 25,000 were medium sized companies (50-249 employees) and the rest were small enterprises. Large company providers provided 25% of private sector employment and 49% of turnover.

In 2000/01 number of FE colleges was 491.  Number of 6th Form Colleges 104. Number of Universities 109 and other HE Institutions 57.

In 2001 there were 1,007 Jobcentres in the UK.

In 2001 it was estimated that the workforce would require a level 3 qualification – this is yet to be achieved. (In 2001 only 43% held level 3 qualifications).

2001 figures for HE comprising 33% were mature students (i.e. over 30 years) and 25% new entrants were entering with non-traditional entry qualifications e.g. GNVQs and BTECs.

In 2001 between 2001/2 and 2003/04 funding for Adult Basic Skills increased from £253 million to £403 million.

In 2001 there were approximately Union Learning Unions representing 66 different unions.

In 2001 population of UK 59.618 million.

In 2001 there were several thousand learning centres and 2,500 private sector training organisations, 600 – 1000 learning material developers/publishers, 600 awarding bodies, 70+ NTOs and over 400 colleges in England.

In session 2004/05 there 25 FE institutions in Wales employing 14,695 staff.

In 2005 in 2005/06 number of apprenticeships were 99,500 (<19). 75,200 (19-24) and 300 (>25) – 122,800 at level 2 and 52,100 at levels 3/4.

In 2006 over 25% of the workforce were over 50 years of age.

In session 2007/08 there were 4,360,700 FTE numbers of  students in FE in England.  Corresponding figures for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were 223,500, 386,600 and 131,800 respectively.

In Session 2008/09 number of students in FE Institutions was 5.6million.

In 2008/09 Student numbers in Science, Engineering and Technology Apprenticeships in England were composed as follows:

Science and related subjects 2,636 (level2) 3% and 4,131 (level3) 5%.

Technology and related subjects 9,000 (level2) 12% and 6,425 (level3) 8%.

Engineering and related subjects 65,436 (84%) and 72,000 (level3) 87%.

Mathematics and related subjects 4,890 (level2) 6% and 5,309 (Level3) 6%.

2009 Learning and Development survey highlighted issues associated with skills namely:

61% employers said new employees from schools/colleges/universities lacked business skills and commercial awareness.

60% employers said employees were weak in communication skills.

55% employers said employees generally lacked work ethic among new employees and

43% lacked customer service skills.

In 2009 in 2009/10 number of apprenticeships were 116,800(<19). 113,800 (19-24) and 49,100 (>25)  – 190,600 at level 2 and 89,200 at levels 3/4.

In 2009 in 2009/10 3.4 million achieved a government funded FE qualification – 1.3 million at level 2 and 674,600at level 3.

In 2009/10 % of employers reporting skill shortages/gaps – hotels/catering 11%, manufacturing 9%, construction 7% and utilities 9%.

In 2010 88% of 16 year olds and 76% of 17 year olds in England were in full-time education.

In 2010 in England 8% 0f employers offered apprenticeships.

In 2010 fewer than 20% of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland studied any kind of mathematics after taking the GCSE qualification.

In 2010 overall 13% taking ‘A’ mathematics in England Wales and Northern Ireland the figure in Scotland was 23%.

In 2010/11 13.3% of central government revenue spent on education.

In 2012 there were 1.07 million 16 to 24 year olds classified as NEETs. 5700,000 unemployed and 502,000 economically inactive.

In 2011/12 there were 402 FE Colleges. Number of 6th Form Colleges 95. Number of Universities 126 and number of other HE Institutions 36.

In 2011 in session 2010/11 there were 4.9 million learners who enrolled for publically funded FE courses in the UK.

In session 2012/13  there were 44,216,600 FTE numbers of students in FE in England. Corresponding figures for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were 211,300, 256,590 and 141,700 respectively.

In session 2012/13 £86.6 billion spent on education – £13.6 b on tertiary and £36.5 b on secondary.

In 2013 Minimum wage for apprentices increased by 3p per hour to £2.68. (October).

In 2013 60% of young people are not prepared for the workforce. CGLI

In 2013 It was expected that Traineeships can last between 6 weeks and 6 months and would include work preparation, English and mathematics and work experience placement with an employer.

In 2013 employers stated that 59% of young people do not have the correct attitudes for he workplace.

In 2013 1 in 6 young people are not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

In 2013 the SFA funded over 1,000 colleges , schools and training providers with a budget of £4 billion per year.

In 2013 just 11 in every 1,000 employees in England were apprentices compared with 39 in Australia and 40 in Germany.

In 2013 it is expected (hoped?) that approximately 15% of apprentices will progress onto Higher Education.

In 2013 Between 2013 and 2022 apprenticeships are estimated to contribute £3.4 billion of net productivity to the UK economy.

In 2013/14 the UK spent £2.5 billion a year on out-of-work benefits for the under 25 year olds. Also 14% of young people were classified as NEETS. Number of students in session 2013/14 FE Institutions 4.5 million – a decrease from 5.6million in session 2008/09

In 2014 estimated that over 1 million new science, engineering and technology professionals will be required in the UK by 2020.

In 2014/15 there were 670,000 apprentices

In 2014 Number of FE students studying P-T work based programmes or college study (aged <19 years olds) – 1,200,000 (England). 63,000 (Wales). 79,000 (NI) and 11,000 (Scotland).

In 2015 26 million people employed in manufacturing in Britain compared with 6.6 million in 1980.

In 2015 54% of British exports came from manufacturing

In 2015 20,000 unfilled graduate positions in IT industries in spite of 30,500 studying computer sciences in universities. 16.4 % increase in engineering graduates since 2005 – but still to low to satisfy demand. European Statistical Office projected that by 2060 there will be only 2 people of working age (15-64) in the EU for every person over 65. 25% of people in employment in UK over 50 years of age. 683,000 young people (16-24) unemployed – June/August figures. 187 standards established for the Trailbrazer Apprenticeship programmes.  A number of surveys identified that for every 1£ spent on apprenticeships there was an economic return of £26-£28. Since 1995 amount that British companies spent on training has fallen year by year. 19% of university graduates are working in non-graduate jobs – a figure that is predicted to rise further. CIPD survey showed that in the UK 22% of jobs required no more than a compulsory – level school – second in the OECD.  SMES employed 60 of people in private sector companies.

In 2015 Royal Academy of Engineering reported that Britain would need an additional 800.000 graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by 2020

In 2015 manufacturing share of economy was 10% a figure continuing to decline. Proportion of exports from manufacturing for Britain 44%. 61% of parents preferred their children to undertake high quality degree apprenticeship programmes. University students receive £6,000 more funding per year than vocational students – namely £8,400 compared to £2,150. In UK manufacturing represents approximately 11% compared with 21% in Germany.

In 2016 2.6 million people employed in manufacturing a figure continuing to decline (20,000 per  quarter). UK needs 69,000 new engineers per year to meet demands of industry (IET). Companies with a payroll>£3 million will be required to pay 0.5% of their wage bill to fund the national  Apprenticeships programmes with a minus £15,000 allowance. 46% of all UK employers will require high level skills and also 70% of all newly created jobs will require high skills. More than £450 billion of UK GDP relies from engineering/manufacturing. Surveys show 59% more people required in people management/production-related technical skills, 53% in craft and technician, 52% in sales and marketing and 47% in IT and software skills over the next three years. Government statistics identify 150,000 shortage of carpenters and 75,000 project managers along with other key  trades in construction industry.

Hard to find vacancies for manufacturing was 35% compared with 30% in 2011. This figure has remained approximately the same for the past few years.


The Untapped Potential of Museums and Libraries

Museums and libraries share a common ancestor with technical colleges through the Mechanics’ Institutions of the 19th century which offered workers the opportunity to improve their skills and acquire new scientific and technological knowledge. It’s also worth reminded that their history includes 19th century endowment by wealthy entrepreneurs who wanted to contribute to the education and cultural enrichment of the population across all ages and classes. Clearly with such a historical heritage it seems natural to more fully exploit the benefits that these different organisations can each offer to engender a learning society and a culture of lifelong learning. With the rapid development of the internet and accessing information online there are now many exciting opportunities to develop a powerful networked information society exploiting and networking the respective strengths of libraries, museums and educational institutions. After all each organisation offers excellent learning environments which are further enhanced as they develop more self-directed approaches to learning both formally and informally.

Sadly the real potential and benefits of working together has yet to be fully realised by these sectors. Although it must be said that many museums especially the national and larger regional museums do make substantial educational provision but much more can be done particularly during this period of austerity and retrenchment. An excellent example is Eureka – The National Children’s Museum which is an interactive educational museum for children up to the age of 11 and based in Halifax in West Yorkshire and founded twenty years ago and encourages parental involvement by way of learning through play. Museums and libraries can provide a rich fund of archived information for research – collecting and displaying a wider range of archived material, information and objects than could possibly be present let alone be accommodated in the average classroom. They can provide contexts e.g. historical/social etc, make links with everyday life and the world of work. Students can visit to carry out investigative work for assignments and with the increasing use of the Internet in education in education, most libraries and museums now offer additional knowledge, information and data in a variety of formats to the remote on-line user. The resources available in the libraries and museums are often very extensive and complement what the educational institutions possess and most certainly can add value to the overall experience of the learners. Resources range from the provision of rare and precious objects, practical information, lists of the learning resources that are available, on-line exhibitions, detailed information about their collections and on-line events. Museums and libraries can represent massive and valuable reservoirs of information for students and the wider community. The rapid developments in information and communication technology have created real opportunities to establish interactive experiences for the learners either individually or in teams.

Too often people in the past, libraries and museums have been perceived as boring, dull, distant places and at times exclusive and elitist but surely nothing could be further from the truth – they can be exciting, attractive, add value to students learning and even be inspirational. Libraries and museums possess a wealth of learning resources that could be more fully exploited by educational institutions if stronger strategic partnerships were formed. These could bring about many benefits not only in education but also to the wider community. Even in these times of austerity the key success factor is the effective management of the partnerships which must be conducted in an open and equitable manner in order to bring about value for money and a win- win result for all parties. This means sharing some staff roles across the three types of institutions and in adopting the principle of reciprocity, educational institutions could provide opportunities for staff exchange as well as courses for library and museum staff; indeed shared staff training would be a must.

Such partnerships would provide people whether in study or not with more extensive learning opportunities that would improve and expand their range of skills and quality of life in general and bring subjects and ideas to life.  Key questions need to be addressed including what information resources are required to support the learner and the new models of learning? The staff would also need to become more versatile and adopt multi-disciplinary skills, work more in teams across institutions and manage and utilise the new technologies.   The respective partners could develop extensive integrated networked information systems. This coordinated approach could bring about many benefits and make a major contribution to the effectiveness of learning and teaching in the education and training sectors. The strategic partnership could also forge much stronger links with the community across all age groups and possibly recapture the mechanics’ institutions philosophy and some of the more open-minded Victorian entrepreneurialism!

Nov 2012


Functional Skills and Apprenticeships

Functional skills are back on the agenda and will form part of the new apprenticeship frameworks which were introduced in September 2012. They will comprise applied skills in English, mathematics and communication technology (ICT). The skills can be taken as stand-alone qualifications and will be embedded within certain programmes of study and will eventually become a mandatory component of Apprenticeships in England replacing the equivalent key skills. Functional skills in Apprenticeships are available in:

  • English which will comprise three distinct components namely: speaking, listening and
  • communication; reading; writing.
  • Mathematics – which will comprise three interrelated process skills to be assessed:
  • representing (selecting the mathematics and information required to model a situation); analysing (processing and using mathematics); interpreting and communicating the results of analysis
  • ICT – which will comprise three interrelated skill areas: using ICT systems; finding and selecting information; developing, presenting and communicating information.

The term functionality has been introduced into educational and training jargon. In curriculum development functionality is equally as important as context, (see article on this website), to which it is closely linked especially in the teaching and learning of vocational and technical subjects. The curriculum developers leading this initiative have adopted the term ‘functional subjects’ to ‘represent a set of learning experiences that provide people with skills and abilities in order for them to be more effective in everyday life, the workplace and educational settings’ (QCA).

Functional skills are critically important to enhance and enrich the apprenticeship programmes in order to better prepare the learners to cope with the challenges in work and real- life contexts. They must also be about developing personal, flexibility, self-management, learning, problem solving, working in a team and thinking skills.

This latest version of functional skills follows a succession of attempts to introduce basic, key and generic skills. This latest attempt will present learning providers and learners with a number of new challenges. The key issue, as it always has been, even before the introduction of basic skills is how to make the subject material relevant and interesting to the learner.

An awful lot has been written about this but many of authors of these guides have little direct experience of teaching technical students and often approach the subject in an academic and clinical fashion.  Also many of the current text books can tend to present an academic bias to the subjects. Tutors have had a long and worthy track record of teaching the additional skills, competences and knowledge components required in practically orientated programmes long before these recently defined skills were formally introduced. Teaching the application of mathematics, science and communications to ,say, hairdressing, horticultural, Institute of Meat, construction, painting and decorating students etc can be very challenging – yes I have been there and I am not Wilt!

It must be remembered that many learners can be hostile to these subjects as they often perceive their programme choice as not requiring additional subjects like mathematics, science etc. Also they could have had bad experiences at school with these subjects. So the skill for the teacher has always been to make the subject content interesting and pertinent to the learner.

The key issues in introducing functional skills are self evident and include:

  • Making a particular skill relevant and meaningful to the learner
  • Delivering where possible the topic in real work situations and environments or at least in realistic working environments (RWEs) based on the learning providers’ premises. Simulation has a number of limitations. Actual work places and to a lesser extent RWEs are ideal environments that offer opportunities for learners to develop, practise, transfer and apply these functional skills.
  • The major challenge with the introduction of functional skills is that the context and content must be realistic and derived from the realities of life and the work place and equally important applied to those realities.
  • Learners must gain an understanding of ‘functionality’ both in terms of the ‘how’ and of the ‘why’. Functional skills must involve such elements as reflection, critical thought, reasoning, and problem solving. Process and thinking skills must be at the heart of this development.
  • Maximising learning activity as much as possible on employer premises e.g. achieve a realistic balance between on and off-job activities.
  • The specification for the functional skills must not be too prescriptive in terms of contexts and situations. Tutors should have the freedom and flexibility to reflect relevant contexts.
  • The assessment regimes must also reflect realistic work contexts and not be over-prescriptive. Effective and sustained learning will not be achieved through inflexible pedagogy, simulation or a pre-occupation with testing and assessment.

If managed and delivered in a considered and sympathetic fashion functional skills will add great value to the apprenticeship and other training programmes..

The Challenges of Introducing Environmental Issues into the Skills Agenda

I know it is stating an obvious fact that education and training must play a significant part in addressing the critical issues currently confronting this planet including those associated with the environment. These include energy, food and water shortages and the consequences of global warming, pollution control, land reclamation and over population. Clearly in spite of a number of sceptics and some who are still in denial of these facts many recognise the dangers.  There is a growing consensus that science and technology can provide some of the solutions as well as creating many new jobs and occupations. In spite of the current austerity, recession and high unemployment especially amongst young people this is surely the time to accelerate investment to create the skills to tackle these issues.

Some of the essential challenges and changes that will be required in all sectors of education and training include:

  • The urgent need for greater awareness of the importance of ecological issues
  • New managerial and organisational structures in institutions
  • Fundamental reviews and reforms of the existing curriculum
  • Introduction of multidisciplinary subjects and programmes
  • Higher profile and importance of scientific (both biological and physical), technical and mathematical subjects;  and hence a significant increase in the number studying these subjects
  • Development of a new set of skills that will match and satisfy the occupational needs of these ecological subjects’
  • Move away from the current linear economy to a circular one with a much greater commitment to recycling and hence reduce waste.

New skills will need to be developed and applied to the existing and emerging scientific and technology knowledge base. These changes will present many daunting challenges for education and training institutions that will include radical reviews and reforms in the way they are managed and organised. The curriculum has to be relevant, up to date and fit for purpose which means that it must involve new qualifications and awards for multidisciplinary subjects and more enlightened methods of assessment. This will require fundamental changes to the way subjects are taught and learnt.

The majority of the curriculum in institutions is still located within a collection of conceptual boxes which create constrictive and confining boundaries. Boundaries not only in terms of subject content but also the way the institutions are managed e.g. separate departments, division and faculties. If the challenges are to be tackled effectively these existing structures must change fundamentally. Specialist departments must cooperate and work more closely together and understand holistically the nature of the challenges that confront them. Parochial and historical practices need to be buried in order to achieve an effective set of reviews and reforms.

Environmental and ecological studies will require a more enlightened approach recognising the fusion of key disciplines such as built environment, construction, engineering, management, facilities management, mathematics and the physical and biological sciences. It has to be multidisciplinary and can no longer be boxed into separate subjects or disciplines. An energy technician represents a good example of this multiskilled and multidisciplinary approach. These individuals need to acquire competence, knowledge, skills and understanding to appreciate the scientific and technological aspects of their occupation. In addition the technician must be aware of the legal aspects of pollution control and management as well as energy conservation and management. Therefore the energy technician needs a curriculum and experience that is truly multidisciplinary and utilises fully an institution’s expertise and resources.

One major concern is the continued reluctance of many to pursue courses that involve scientific, technological and mathematical content. Enrolments in courses and programmes have continued to decline over a number of decades and various campaigns to increase enrolments have largely failed. Coupled to this is that colleges and universities have downsized, merged or even closed departments in many technical disciplines e.g. construction, engineering and physical sciences. Also successive governments in this country have operated insensitive funding regimes which discriminate against higher cost lower recruiting technical and practically based subjects preferring instead to fund lower cost and populist subjects.

In addition, as the country lost its manufacturing base young people in particular perceived construction, engineering and science as fields not offering secure careers and that in turn deterred them from studying these disciplines. Therefore if attitudes to the study of scientific and technical subjects are to be encouraged to change it will need to be recognised that part of the strategy to succeed will have to be linked to increasing the capability and capacity of institutions to cater for growth in these scientific, technological and ecologically oriented courses. This would need long term recognition and commitment from successive parliaments.  It will not be a quick fix. A whole series of strategies needs to be introduced including:

  • Comprehensive systems of careers information advice and guidance (CIAG) at all education sectors to encourage students to pursue these courses
  • The  courses and programmes need to receive adequate resources i.e. financial, physical and human
  • More credibility and appropriately qualified and experienced teachers need to be recruited supported with effective CPD programmes
  • Awarding bodies need to create new qualifications and awards – CGLI have already made a good start with their green skills qualifications initiative
  • Establishment a parity of esteem between technical and the so-called academic subjects
  • Produce more highly qualified crafts/trades people, technicians, technologists , and environment scientists

The challenges are immense but if successfully implemented could greatly contribute to tackling one of the major problems facing this country and the world.

First published on the City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development website in Winter 2012.

Youth Matters

One of the most unfortunate consequences of the current global financial crisis is the very high level of youth unemployment particularly in Europe. Sadly the present situation looks like it will persist for some time and already commentators are talking about a lost generation mirroring a similar situation in a number of regions in Britain in the 1980s e.g. North East and South West of England. I had direct experience of that situation in Cornwall and the plethora of short term schemes introduced by the then government most of which failed to create long term solutions. Unfortunately at present one can see a similar scenario developing across many countries in Europe and beyond. Complex and interrelated features become manifest at times of high unemployment including the demographical, financial, and societal and most obviously the type and profile of current employment in the country. Whilst politicians argue about the priorities and sequencing of austerity and growth measures, too often the complex issues associated with the possibility of long term structural unemployment particularly for young people is not given the highest priority. The situation is made more complicated at present as the various global transformations come into even stronger and more significant focus e.g. the emergence of the BRICS economies and the ever accelerating advance of the newer technologies and their applications. Ironically in such times golden opportunities arise to fundamentally review and reform critical factors including the structure of the wealth generating base of a country and its relationship to other world economies.

One issue is clear, that the current financial crisis will take a long time to be resolved possibly a generation! Most certainly the future will be very different and will require radical and new solutions; historical signposts will offer little guidance so new paradigms need to be established. So what will this mean for the education and training for the unemployed, young people and under 25 graduates. Conventional curriculum design and traditional teaching methods will not work in the current climate so the purpose and structure of existing education and training systems need to be fundamentally reviewed and reformed. I will focus on Britain and the education and training of young people but many of the points highlighted may apply in other countries. Very different types of employment will necessarily be anticipated and the education and training of young people must be more aligned to the future trends of commerce, industry and services worldwide and as a result totally new approaches in the curriculum will be required both in terms of its content, delivery and structure. This assumes that the country has developed a well defined strategy for the regeneration of its economy underpinned with effective Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) to monitor the changes both nationally and globally.

The curriculum must be structured to create new skills bases with greater emphasis on flexibility, generic skills, entrepreneurial skills and the recognition of the importance of multi- and cross-skilling within the workforce. For example small and medium sized enterprises will become even more important in the future so the curriculum must fully recognise the essential skills that will be necessary i.e. put simply to prepare young people to be more enterprising, creative and innovative. These skills are not present in the heavily prescribed curricula and only figure in more specific programmes at college and university level. It is essential that these are fully integrated into programmes for all students whether at school, college or university. Themes that are critical and essential for coping with the new demands could include:

  • Business skills  especially at the setting up stage
  • Managing self or lone employment
  • Marketing a small business
  • Financial literacy skills
  • Greater awareness of economics and banking
  • Knowledge of legal issues as it relates to running a business
  • Greater competence in languages of key countries – customers and suppliers
  • Greater awareness and knowledge of other countries’ business, manufacturing and services strengths including cultural aspects
  • Problem solving skills
  • The introduction to philosophy and philosophical concepts that will allow a more critical, logical, pragmatic and reflective view of life and work to be developed.

To be even more effective the new programmes must be supported by vastly improved Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) systems. In order to enable a young person to be better prepared for work increased emphasis must be given to work experience/shadowing/sandwich programmes and that employers are more involved at all stages of the education and training process.

Analysis of previous recessions affecting Britain offer few positive examples of major reforms as only too often governments and companies cut back on training and fail to adopt regenerative and effective long term strategies to develop and strengthen the skills of the workforce. Also they are prone to create short term schemes that achieve little or no long term benefit for the young people or the country. Wider societal elements also contribute to problems with the education and training of young people including the obsession with celebrity culture and the possible negative effects of media role models. The increasing desire for instant answers and the resultant tendency to invest less time in learning coupled with a decline in critical analysis as a result of the dependency on the internet can be problematic. But having said that young people are far more confident in exploiting the benefits of the new technologies and if the educational experience on offer recognises that they will be more aligned to the way these technologies impact on both the world of work and the work of the world.

The current situation will present governments and politicians with some major challenges but one aspect is critical and that is that all interested parties should be involved in the reviews and subsequent proposals including employers, the media, educational and training organisations and definitely the young people themselves. The reforms must be radical and fully recognise that the nature of education, training and work will be very different in the future so all parties must be prepared to bury past practices and ideologies in order to create a more promising future for young people. A country that fails to invest in its young people will also fail to succeed in the global economy.

First published on the City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development website-Autumn 2012.

Polytechnic Institutions of London

Some historical background:

Royal Polytechnic Institution (Incorporated 1838)The genesis of the Polytechnic movement was the foundation in 1838 of the Polytechnic Institution located at 309 Regent Street and 5 Cavendish Square – figure opposite. The driving force in its creation was George Cayley (1773-1857) who was a noted inventor accredited with the foundations of aerodynamics and aerial navigation. The Polytechnic opened on 6th August 1838 with exhibitions and demonstrations of printing, optical equipment, power looms etc reflecting the intended practical applications focus of the institution. The building included laboratories and lecture rooms. It received a Royal Charter in 1839 and became known as the Royal Polytechnic Institution. The Polytechnic offered a non-classical, non-university education organised around popular public lectures and research into the rapidly developing technologies of the time. It is important to remember that there was still a great deal of resistance and prejudice among the then traditional universities e.g. Cambridge and Oxford to science and technology. An example of this ridiculous attitude was the vice-chancellor of Cambridge who commented on hearing that Joseph Priestley (discoverer of oxygen) had been appointed as professor of chemistry at Warrington Academy (see biographies on this website) ‘chemistry is not a suitable subject for universities’. The Royal Polytechnic existed for over forty years and was among the few institutions to pioneer technical education.

The Polytechnic Institutions

In 1881 Quintin Hogg (see biography on this website) purchased the buildings occupied by the Royal Polytechnic to develop further his educational work for the “poorer classes”. The new institution became known as the Regent Street Polytechnic and was opened in 1882 and so the Polytechnic movement was born with the Regent Street Polytechnic providing an exemplary model to tackle the problems associated with the education of young people in London. It must be remembered the parlous state of education provision for young people at this time.  The London Polytechnic movement was created at the end of the 19th century to address and tackle some of those deficiencies in the educational and training opportunities for young people who had left school and were working during the day. In 1880 London had three quarters of a million young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty five but less than 2% of that male population and an infinitesimal percentage of those females attended any form of educational institution. The polytechnic movement was remarkable and possibly unique at this time in its intention to combine instruction, social interaction and recreation for its students. They were not to be a place of amusement with a few educational classes added; nor were they educational institutions that provided limited opportunities for recreation. The interplay of these three elements was devised intentionally to address the specific needs of this age group living in deprived areas of London. The moral purpose of these institutions was to steer young people away from crime, alcohol and prostitution. The polytechnic movement owed much to the earlier Mechanics’ Institutions e.g. Birkbeck College represented a direct link with the Mechanics’ Institution movement.

It is to Quintin Hogg and his commitment and pioneering work for the education of working young people and his philanthropy that the London Polytechnic movement was established. It was largely the success of his work that created the foundations for the other London Polytechnics.  But no one individual, however generous, could fund the development of other institutions across the city.

What gave the subsequent Polytechnic movement added impetus to expand and extend over London was the City Parochial Charities Act of 1883. The Act provided for the application of any surpluses to be spent on the following priority areas to improve the physical, social and moral condition of the poorer inhabitants of the Metropolis and specific objectives were:

  • To promote the Education of the poorer inhabitants of the Metropolis by means of technical, secondary or art education, or evening lectures
  • To establish and maintain libraries, museums or art collections
  • To promote and extend provident institutions, and working men’s and women’s institutes
  • To preserve, provide and maintain open spaces, and recreation, or drill grounds
  • And generally to improve the physical, social and moral condition of the poorer inhabitants of the Metropolis.

To gather evidence about the then current state of technical education members of the Commissioners had visited the Regent Street Polytechnic, the People’s Palace* and analysed data and information from the Report of the Royal Commission on Technical Education and the work of the City and Guilds of London Institute (CGLI) (see biographies and history on this website). The success of the Finsbury Technical College also provided useful evidence for the polytechnics structure and management. As a result of their work they proposed a regional development of similar Polytechnics across London in the East, North, North-West, South, South-East, South-West and West the intention being to create a ring of institutions in London. After a great deal of argument and discussion and subsequent refinement of the purpose of institutions the Commissioners issued a schedule for the Institutions stating that the primary object was the promotion of industrial skill, general knowledge, health and well-being of young people belonging to the poorer classes namely:

  • “Instruction in: (i) The general rules and principles of the arts and sciences applicable to any handicraft, trade or business. (ii) The practical application of such general rules and principles in any handicraft, trade or business. (iii) Branches or details of any handicraft, trade or business, facilities for acquiring the knowledge of which cannot be usually obtained in the workshop or other place of business. The Classes and Lectures shall not be designed or arranged so as to be in substitution for practical experience of the workshop or place of business, but so as to be supplementary thereto.
  • Instruction suitable for persons intending to emigrate.
  • Instruction in such branches and subjects of Art, Science, Language, Literature and General knowledge, as may be approved by the Governing Body.
  • Public Lectures or courses of Lectures, musical and other entertainments and exhibitions.
  • Instruction and practice in gymnastics, drill, swimming, and other bodily exercises.
  • Facilities for the formation and meeting of Clubs and Societies.
  • A Library. Museum and Reading Room or Reading Rooms.”

The funds provided by the City Parochial Charities were greatly enhanced from other sources particularly the Livery Companies. For example the Drapers’ Company took over the People’s Palace whilst the Goldsmiths’ Company assumed total responsibility to create and maintain the proposed Goldsmith’ Institution located in Lewisham High Road, New Cross. Also the Clothworkers’ Company gave significant funds to the Northern Polytechnic at Holloway whilst other City Companies assisted in other ways. A number of Polytechnics absorbed existing colleges e.g. City of London College.

In 1903 there were twelve polytechnics institutions and three branches namely:

North of the Thames:

The East London Technical College, Mile End Road, E with its branches, the Bow and Bromley Institute.
The Northern Polytechnic, Holloway, N. (Opened 1896).
The Regent Street Polytechnic, Regent Street, W. (Opened 1882).
The South-West London Polytechnic, Manresa Road, Chelsea, S.W. (Opened 1895).
The John Cass Institute, Jewry Street, EC. (Opened 1899).
The City Polytechnic, comprising:
The Northampton Institute, Clerkenwell, E.C. (Opened 1896)
The Birkbeck College, Bream’s Building, Chancery Lane, E.C.
The City of London College, White Street, Moorfields, E.C.(First opened in 1860)

South of the Thames:

The Battersea Polytechnic, Battersea Park Road, S.W. (opened 1894).
The Borough Polytechnic, Borough Road, S.E. with two branches, the Herold Institute, Bermondsey, S.E., and the Norwood Institute, Knight’s Hill, S.E. (Opened 1892).
The Goldsmiths’ Institute, Lewisham High Road, New Cross, S.E. (Opened 1891).
The Woolwich Polytechnic, William Street, Woolwich, S.E.  (Opened 1891).

The Polytechnics addressed the needs of the apprentice and artisan including the architects’ drawing-clerks. They developed specialised faculties for their local needs. For example the Northampton Institute established provision for metal-work and technical optics; the Borough Polytechnic programmes for builders, plumbers and bakery, whilst the John Cass Institute developed provision in metallurgy. Woolwich Polytechnic provided scientific instruction to the workers at the Arsenal. Battersea Polytechnic developed engineering for the London and South West Railway. Chelsea Polytechnic focused on provision for commercial and clerical work and Regent Street Polytechnic offered provision in art, commerce, science and trade. Between them the Polytechnics offered a very wide range of courses ranging from bookbinding, building trades, cabinet making and furniture trades, carriage making, carpentry and joinery, goldsmiths/silversmiths, house painting and decorating, metal plate working, plumbing, printing, and wheelwrights’ work as well as introducing provision for women covering book-keeping, domestic economy subjects, languages, and shorthand.

Attached to several of the polytechnics were eight other special schools catering for example for girls wishing to study domestic economy subjects. Therefore the polytechnics offered a wide range of subjects at different levels. So it was possible for young people after passing the Public Elementary School fifth grade to remain in the polytechnic day school up to sixteen or seventeen; on leaving school at any age, continue education in any branch of study, in either evening or day classes; to prepare either for manual labour, commerce and the higher levels of technical education. Also it was possible to undertake a classical curriculum similar to that of a university, to qualify for membership of the professional association or take a London degree and finally to specialise in post-graduate investigation or research in various areas of art, literature or science.

The Polytechnic Institutes of London proved a great success and developed parallel to similar technical institutions across Britain and contributed to the development of technical and commercial education and training in the country. The institutions underwent many name changes merging with other institutions and a number form part of the modern universities in London.

*Peoples Palace was started in the East End of London after the publication of Walter Besant’s ‘All Sorts and Conditions of Men’  as a place of education and recreation initially providing day and evening classes in the trades and industrial occupations. Classes in mechanical, electrical engineering, chemistry, science and art were offered as well as social and other activities. The Palace then became the East London Technical College and is now part of London University.


The London ‘Polytechnic’ title had no connection with institutions so named in mainland Europe e.g. France, Germany and Switzerland. The name was carried over from the George Cayley Royal Polytechnic when Quintin Hogg purchased the premises after the Royal Polytechnic went bankrupt.

A useful definition of Polytechnic is an institution teaching many art and technical subjects up to and including degree level and offering a number of modes of attendance e.g. full and part-time.

Useful References:

Webb. S. London Education’. Longmans, Green and Co. 1904.
Millis. C. T. ‘Technical Education. Its Development and Aims’. Edward Arnold. 1925.
Sadler. M. E. Continuation Schools in England and Elsewhere’. Manchester University Press. 1907.

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) and Education

Social theorist, writer, political campaigner and cited as the first female sociologist.

Harriet MartineauI came across this remarkable woman in the biography of Charles Knight.

She wrote for the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK see biographies on this website). Born in Norwich where her father was a manufacturer and her mother held very strong views on female propriety and behaviour. The family were of Huguenot decent and held Unitarian views. Harriet suffered ill health most of her life. She began to write from an early age for the Unitarian publication ‘the Monthly Repository’ but after the age of 27 she was able to move away from her mother’s influence and strict discipline and began to expand her writing to wider themes which she would continue to her death. Her first publications were focused on political and economic issues including a fictional tutorial on a number of key political economists such as Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. Her publications soon gained recognition and wide acclaim winning a number of prizes from the Unitarian Association.

I will focus on her work in education but she was a prolific write and commentator on issues ranging from America, children, education, feminism, household education, marriage, race relations and religion. Her writings were both seminal and eclectic in nature and are still relevant today. After gaining success she moved to London where politicians and civil servants sought her advice on a wide range of issues both political and cultural. She also maintained a wide circle of friends including Charles Babbage, Henry Brougham, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Darwin, George Elliot, Charles Knight, Charles Lyell, Thomas Malthus and John Stuart Mill. She translated and condensed Auguste Comte’s six volume ‘Cours de Philosophie Positive’ into two volumes entitled ‘The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte’ – a version which Comte himself recommended to his students over his own!

Harriet Martineau displayed a great interest in education and wrote her first article on education at the age of 21. She argued education was a vital element throughout life and its universal implementation would contribute to a better society emphasising both the intellectual and physical aspects of early and lifelong education. Education would make people better employees, employers and parents. She also strongly advocated that employers should expect that prospective employees should have had educational opportunities prior to employment and that employers should provide appropriate industrial education for all their employees, a view which aligned with those of Robert Owen. A true visionary, she stressed the importance of lifelong learning, strongly advocating vocational education as well as intellectual training for all children from all classes of society. She was a passionate advocate for girls’ and women’s education emphasising skill acquisition for preparation for work and argued for the removal of all barriers to further and higher education and employment for women.
She was very supportive of:


  • A national system of education for the working class
  • Industrial training and a curriculum that included the 3 Rs, industrial and manual training
  • A more enlightened and freer curriculum in infant schools with less emphasis on rote learning and didacticism
  • The creation of working women’s colleges that would better prepare women for vocational occupations with better pay
  • The establishment of general education provision for women wishing to pursue self-improvement programmes
  • Reform of public schools’ endowments and charitable trusts
  • The extension of the remit for the Taunton Commission (1864-67) to include female education
  • She expressed her disapproval of:
  • The monitorial system and rote learning
  • The same tests for girls when they were required to spend a disproportionate time was spent on domestic subjects when compared with boys
  • Corporal punishment
  • Endowments that were exclusively for boys e.g. for entry to Christ’s Hospital
  • The public school system

As one can see her views, beliefs and opinions were truly challenging and insightful, reflecting the fragmented nature of Victorian society at the time and were seen by many at the time and even today as subversive. That they are seen as still relevant today reflects that many of fundamental issues are yet to be resolved. She was instrumental in creating the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (SPEW-an unfortunate acronym which was helpfully changed later) after writing an article in the Edinburgh Review. She spent her later life in the Lake District where she taught at the local Mechanics’ Institution, a movement she greatly admired and supported. At one time she was an active member of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society.
Weiner Gaby. Umea University, Sweden. ‘Harriet Martineau on Education’. An excellent paper presented at Birmingham University on 18th October 2004.
Pichanick, Valerie. ‘Harriet Martineau, The Woman and Her Work, 1802-76’. University of Michigan Press.
Harriet Martineau work with Charkes Knight is described in ‘Charles Knight Educator, Publisher, Writer’ by Valerie Gray. ISBN-10: 0 7546 5219X. Ashgate. 2006.

Great Engineers and Pioneers and their Education

Updated November 2016.

Trained men and apprentices contributed greatly to the Industrial Revolution but it must be remembered that the majority never had never studied at university or enjoyed any significant period in a school education. The majority of these remarkable individuals came through the apprenticeship route, taught themselves or gained their experience in the work place. Many possessed a natural innate ability to solve engineering problems. The Industrial Revolution owed little to education systems or to direct action from the state. It is also interesting to note how many of these individuals were from Scotland.

A good example is the development of machine tools. The key players were Joseph Bramah, Joseph Clements, Henry Maudslay, William Muir, Richard Roberts and Joseph Whitworth . All started as manual workers but made their engineering contribution through the application of geometry, a working knowledge of metals, and the gradual improvement in precision, accuracy and replication of machine tools.
In addition people like Telford and Maudslay also trained many individuals through apprenticeships who then went on to make their own discoveries and inventions including Joseph Clement, Joseph Whitworth, Richard Roberts and James Nasmyth.
The list is by no means complete and some current entries are incomplete but I intend to add more detail as my researches continue.

Discoveries/Other Achievements
Education/Training (if known) and/or occupation
 John Anderson
Scottish educator. Established weekly classes for mechanics/artizans basis of the Mechanics’ Institutions. The Andersonian/Anderson Institution created after his death for which he left money in his will. (See biography on this website).
Educated at Glasgow University.
 John Astbury
Pioneering potter and researcher.
 August Applegath
 Printer improved the steam-powered flat-bed press.
Richard Arkwright
Industrialist and inventor. Automatic spinning frame (1769)
Some times referred to as the Father of the Industrial Revolution.
Apprenticeship but mainly self taught. Started a successful career as a barber specialising in dyeing hair. Became interested in spinning and his frame invention  was financially supported by Strutt and Need a Nottingham manufacturer.
 Henry Edward Armstrong 1847-1937  Chemist and strong advocate for improvements to science teaching more focussed on investigation and exploration.  Royal College of Chemistry and Leipzig University. Professor of Chemistry at Finsbury Technical College.
William Armstrong
Industrialist and inventor. Hydraulic engines, cranes  and swing bridges and then ordnance manufacture
Articled solicitor but turned to engineering
 William Arrol
Scottish engineer. Built viaducts and railways.
 Apprenticed blacksmith. Studied mechanics and hydraulics at night school.
 Joseph Aspdin
Bricklayer and inventor. patented Portland cement.
Stonemason by trade.
 William Edward Ayrton
Educator, engineer and inventor
 Studied mathematics at University College, London. (see biography on this website).
Charles Babbage
Mathematician/Inventor /writer including calculating machines/founder of Royal Statistical Society, Astronomical Society and the British Association/ophthalmoscope/railway signals
Cambridge university
 John Fredrick La Trobe
 Water engineer
Henry Bell
Engineer. Steam boats – first passenger-carrying steamboat in European waters.
Apprenticeship/millwright/stone mason/carpenter
 Patrick Bell
 Invented the first successful reaping machine
 Trained as a clergyman.
Henry Bessemer
Pioneer metallurgist, military ordnance, inventor and business man. Bessemer steel converter 1756
Self taught and learnt metallurgy in his father’s foundry
 Edward John Bevan
English industrial chemist. Patented the viscose process for rayon manufacture.
Studied at Owens College, Manchester.
William Bickford
Inventor. Miner’s safety fuse (1831)
Apprenticeship/leather worker
J G Bodmer
Inventor. Pioneer of the assembly line. Major contributions to a wide range of machines using steam, water to drive textile mills armaments and locomotives. Founded the Chorlton Mills in Manchester
Swiss born and a skilled mechanical engineer
Matthew Boulton
Inventor. Steam engine technology. Manufactured many metal products including buttons, coins, and clocks. With James Watt opened a steam-engine factory in Birmingham. Developed steam-powered coin minting machine.
 Local grammar school thenan academy in Deritend, Birmingham. Brilliant business person who factory offered many good opportunities to apprentices and employees. Worked closely with James Watt
Joseph Bramah
Inventor. Water closet (1778)/Safety locks (unpickable/hydraulic press/fire engine and a beer machine for use in pubs. Also invented a machine for printing bank notes
Apprenticeship to village carpenter. Became a cabinetmaker in London.  He went on to train many other mechanics and inventors including one of the first proposals to create a screw-propeller.
 Thomas Brassey
English engineer. Designed and built viaducts and railways.
Articled as a land surveyor.
James Brindley
Engineer and canal builder e.g. Trent and the Barton aqueduct; discovered the process of puddle clay linings to canals. Mersey canal started in 1766
Apprenticeship as a millwright and self taught but possessed an instinctive ability for engineering.
 Robert Brown
 Scottish botanist discovered the ‘Brownian motion effect’ and a plant hunter.
Educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Engineer and inventor. Railway/ship engineering/bridge and tunnel building
Attended boarding school then to a school in France (College of Caen) and the Lycee Henri Quatre in Paris and gained valuable work experience with Maudslay and Son and Field.
 Henry Brunner
 Educated at father’s school – then Zurich Polytechnic. Became chief chemist at John Hutchinson’s Works.
 Edwin Beard Budding
 Inventor of the lawn mower.
 Mary Carpenter
 English educationalist and reformer. Founded a ragged schools.
Trained as a teacher.
Edmund Cartwright
Inventor. Power- loom (1787)/Wool-combing machine
Oxford – trained at Wakefield and Oxford for the church. Became interested in weaving and with other craftsmen developed the power-loom.
Henry Cavendish
Pioneering investigator in electricity, discovered hydrogen. Torsion balance to determine the mean density of the earth
Cambridge but left without a degree. Conducted research very much alone. Cavendish Laboratory established in 1871 in his honour.
 George Cayley
Amateur scientist and aviation pioneer. Developed the first successful glider.
 Tutored privately by George Walker.
 William Chapman
Canal engineer.
 Charles Chubb
English locksmith/business man. Improved ‘detector locks’ Ran a hardware business.
 Samuel Clegg
English inventor. Worked with William Murdock/Murdoch on gas illuminations systems. Invented a number od appliances for gas fittings e.g. meters, valves etc.
Apprenticed at Matthew Boulton and James Watt works. Taught by John Dalton.
 Dugald Clerk
 Scottish Mechanical engineer. Gas engine designer.
 Studied at Anderson’s College, Glasgow and Leeds to because a chemical engineer.
John Clement
Invented the metal-plning machine and improved lathe design. Engineer to Charles Babbage
Attended a local village school for a short period. Apprenticed thatcher and slater.Later worked for Bramah Maudslay
 Joseph Clement
A tool maker. Worked with Joseph Braham at Henry Maudslay’s factory. Improved  engineering standards by inventing screw threads e.g. a planning machine patented in 1825. and a constant speed lathe which was patented in 1827.
 Apprenticed tool maker.
 William Congreve
English scientist. Controller at Woolwich Laboratory. Invented the ‘Congreve rocket’.
 Educated at the Woolwich Academy.
 William Cookworthy.
Henry Cort
Navy agent and Inventor e.g. the Cort process converting pig iron into wrought iron patented in 1783/84
Naval agent/clerk where he managed a forge in Gosport Hampshire where is researched processes and invented the puddling process.
 Thomas Russell Crampton
English engineer. Designer of locomotives and installed the first cross channel cable.
Richard Crawshay
Introduced Cort’s puddling process.
 James Croll
Scottish physicist and geologist. Pioneer in climate science and geology.
 Elementary school-self taught. Millwright, keeper at the museum of Anderson’s College.
Samuel Crompton
Improved the Spinning Mule (1779) which was across between Hargreaves spinning jenny and Arkwright’s water frame.
Well educated but with no mechanical training largely self-taught
 Joseph Crosfield
 Soap and chemical manufacturer in Warrington.
 Quaker education – then apprenticed as a druggist and chemist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
William Cubitt
Civil engineer. Canal/railways. Invented the treadmill and involved in the construction of the Great Exhibition Hall 0f 1851.
Apprenticeship worked as a miller, cabinet- maker and a millwright until 1821 when he went to Ransome’s factory near Ipswich.
 John Curr.
 Railway/tram engineer.
 David Dale
Scottish industrialist and philanthropist. Successful line business. Employed hundreds of pauper children.
 Apprenticed to a weaver.
John Dalton
Atomic theory (1808), scientific experimenter invented the hygrometer. Tutor at New College Manchester in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
Basic school education (Quaker).
No formal education.
 Abraham Darby
English iron master. Founded the Bristol Iron Company. His son A. Darby 2 (1711-1763) and his grandson 3 A. Darby (1750-1791) followed him in the iron industry. Darby 3 built the world’s first iron bridge in 1779. Converts furnace to smelt iron with coke instead of charcoal.
Erasmus Darwin
Physician. Founded the Derby Philosophical Society/Lunar Society member
 John Davenport.
Potter and manufacturer.
 Humphry Davy
 Chemist and physicist. Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution. Discovered potassium and sodium and established the science of electro-chemistry.
 Penzance Grammar School then apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary.
 Henry Deacon
 Chemist and Industrialist. Invented apparatus for grinding and smoothing glass.
 Quaker education then apprenticed to a local engineering group Galloway and Sons and the Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company.
 James Dewar
Scottish chemist/physicist. Invented the Dewar flask and discovered cordite.
Educated at Edinburgh University.
 Bryan Donkin
English engineer and inventor. Developed automated paper making machines. Patented rotary printing machine. Improved food preserving techniques.
Apprenticed as a mechanic.
 Thomas Drummond
Engineer and surveyor. Invented LIMELIGHT known as Drummond light. Improved the heliostat used in surveying.
 George R Elkington.
Inventor pioneered electroplating. later opened a copper-smelting works in South Wales.
 Apprenticed at a Birmingham small arms factory
 William Fairburn
 Scottish civil engineer, structural engineer, railways and shipbuilder. Invented steam excavator and sausage making machines.
 Apprenticed as a millwright in Newcastle upon Tyne. Befriended G. Stephenson.
Michael Faraday
Physicist and chemist. Pioneering electrical engineer;  invented amongst other items the electric motor, transformer and the dynamo. Director of Chemical Laboratory Royal Institution.
Self-taught apprenticed to a book binder. Worked with Humphry Davy and succeeded Davys chair of chemistry at the Royal Institution famous for the Christmas lectures
 Samuel fellows
Framework knitter and textile manufacturer and researcher.
 James David Forbes
 Scottish physicist and glaciologist.
Self-taught and then entered Edinburgh University.
 William Frankland
 Brilliant chemist
 Lancaster Royal Grammar School then apprenticed as a druggist in Lancaster – then assistant at the chemical laboratory of the British Geological Society (Lyon Playfair was director (see biography on this website)). Marburg and Giessen.
 Holbrook Gaskell
 Educated at private school and then apprenticed clerk in the Yates, Cox Company – an iron merchant and nail makers. Formed a partnership with James Nasmyth.
 Holbrook Gaskell (2)
 Chemical industry
 Educated at Owen’s College Manchester
 Holbrook Gaskell (3)
 Chemical industry
 William Gossage
 Chemical manufacture- soap. Patented an alarm devise which could be attached to a watch or clock
 Apprenticed to his uncle as a druggist and chemist – studied chemistry and French.
 James Henry Greathead
 Inventor – born South Africa. Designed the ‘Greathead shield’ used in drilling tunnels and subways.
 Apprenticed as a civil engineer.
 Samuel Greg
Irish man after moving to England built the Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. He established a small school within the factory complex. The mill is now a fascinating museum.  Active in the Mechanics’ Institution movement.
James Hargreaves/Hargraves
Inventor. Spinning loom (1764)
Little formal education/self-taught. Worked as a weaver and carpenter.
 Thomas Hancock.
Rubber engineer and researcher.
 Joseph Hall 1789-1862. Iron founder and experimenter.
John Harrison
Inventor and horologist. Clocks/Chronometer. Invented the gridiron pendulum and the remontoir escapement.
Little formal education/self-taught
 Thomas Hawksley
Water engineer.
 Apprenticed to an architect.
 William Hedley.
Railway engineer.
John Heathcoat
Inventor of a lace, ribbon and net –making machine
Apprenticeship (Knitting machines)
 Alfred Holt
 Engineer, ship owner and merchant.
 Robert Hunt

Government School of Mines and Experimental Physics .

No formal education. Apprenticed to doctor in London.
 John Hutchinson
 Chemist and Industrialist.
 Educated in Paris.
 William Jessop
 English civil engineer. Canal and railways
 Pupil of John Smeaton.
 James Prescott Joule
Physicist and researcher . Thermodynamics.
 Private tutor and self-taught.
John Kay
Inventor of machines including the fly or flying shuttle. Reed-maker for the weaving industry. Invented a number of machines to improve the weaving processes. Fly/Flying shuttle (1738).
Educated in France
James Keir
Assisted Priestley in experiments/Chemical research. Lunar Society member.
Edinburgh High School and University where he studied medicine.
 William Lever
 Industrialist and politician. Founded a soap and cleaning manufacturer Lever Brothers.
 Educated in Bolton at Bolton Church Institute then worked in family grocery business.
 Joseph Locke
English railway engineer.
Articled to George Stephenson.
 Charles Macintoch
Scottish industrial chemist and inventor. Patented processes for waterproofing rubber.
Educated in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
 Kirkpatrick Macmillan
Scottish inventor. Credited with the first tricycle and bicycle – pedal driven.
 Farm worker, coachman and blacksmith.
 William Mather
 Industrialist and politician. Great advocate for education Chairman of Mather and Platt (Ironworking).
 Educated privately then at Owen’s College/Manchester University
John McAdam
Pioneer road designer and builder
Wealthy individual who invested his own money in improving road design and building – process he invent named after him ‘roads were macadamised’
William McNaught
Mechanical engineer and inventor. Compound steam engine (1845).
Trained as a marine engineer/Attended Andersonian/Anderson’s Institution
 Robert Mallet
A brilliant and versatile Irish geophysicist, civil engineer and inventor. See as the founder of the science of seismology. Editor of the ‘Practical Mechanics Journal’ between 1861 and 1867, contributor to ‘The Engineer’ and has many patents to his name.
 Attended Trinity College Dublin
 John Marshall
 Improved linen manufacturing techniques
Henry Maudslay
Engineer and inventor. Machine tools e.g. table-engine 1807. Patents for calico printing, small steam engines and the differential for lathes. Trained a number of brilliant toolmakers including Joseph Clement, Richard Roberts and Joseph Whitworth.
Apprenticeship (Blacksmiths) but did not serve the full 7 years but was taken on by Joseph Bramah for 9 years gaining valuable experience of engineering and manufacturing processes.
 John Mercer
English chemist specialised in dyes. Discovered processes associated with such materials as cotton and calico.
 Self taught.
Jack Metcalf
Engineer. Pioneer  road-building
No formal training. A truly remarkable individual totally blind since the age of 6 Possessed an inexplicable 6th sense and talent. He went on to design and build roads in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire e.g. Macclesfield-Chapel-en-le-Frith and Buxton -Whaley Bridge. Over 180 miles of roads stand to his genius
William Murdock/Murdoch
Engineer. Gas lighting/steam coach/Lunar Society
Initially worked with father as a millwright. Gained further experience with Boulton and Watts factory i.e. learnt on the job
Matthew Murray
Mechanical engineer and inventor. Yarn manufacture. Improved the design of the steam engine and flax-spinning machine.
Apprenticeship (Blacksmith). Improved the design of the steam engine as well as developing textile machinery
 David Mushet
Scottish iron master. Improved the efficiency of iron/steel smelting processes.
James Muspratt
Chemist and industrialist. Chemical industries alkali manufacturer using the Leblanc process for the first time in England.
Apprenticeship (Druggist). Established a chemical factory with Thomas Abbott.
 Robert Napier
A brilliant marine engineer established an engineering business in Glasgow in 1815. Designed engines for boats including for one called the Leven. Developed the ship building yard at Govan and continued to build hips for companies such as P and O and the navy.
James Nasmyth
Engineer. Machine tools e.g. steam hammer 1839 and the steam pile driver which revolutionised the construction of bridges. Also a planning machine and a hydraulic punching machine. Founded the Bridgewater Foundry at Patricroft.
Attended Edinburgh High School for 3 years but left at 12. Attended evening classes at Edinburgh School of Arts (really a technical college) his father also helped with his education. In addition he continued to teach himself. He went to work with Maudslay and Sons and Field and gained valuable experience.
James Neilson
Engineer. Blast furnace in steel manufacture/Founded the Glasgow Gas Workmen’s Institution (1821)
Little formal education/self taught
Thomas Newcomen
Inventor. Steam engine design/First efficient atmospheric steam engine. Worked with Thomas Savery.
Blacksmith/Ironmonger worked with Thomas Savery
Thomas Percival
Significant figure in the Manchester Lit and Phil movement
Warrington Dissenting Academy/Edinburgh and Leyden gaining a MD.
William Perkin
Chemist. Initially researched synthesising coal-tar but then moved to textile dyes creating a number of synthetic dyes. Discoverer of aniline dyes.
City of London School. Royal College of Chemistry studied and worked with August Hofmann
William Pilkington
Industrialist. Glass making
Left school at 18
Lyon Playfair
Chemist/technical education advocate and served on many committees including those on scientific and technical education. Professor of Chemistry Royal Institution and Professor of Chemistry applied to Arts and Agriculture at the School of Mines.
St Andrews; Andersonian Institute: Giessen University Germany
Joseph Priestley
Chemist and clergyman. Discovered oxygen and researched electrical science/Lunar Society member. Tutor at Warrington Academy and New College Hackney.
Grammar school/home tuition/Daventry Dissenting Academy
 William Radcliffe
Cotton manufacturer and inventor.
Jesse Ramsden
Instrument maker e.g. screw cutting lathe 1770/dividing engine 1775. Instruments used in mathematics and astronomical research
Apprenticeship in instrument making.
 Robert Ransome
Opened a small iron works in Norwich and obtained a patent for tempering cast-iron ploughshares. Helped to standardise the parts of ploughs and other agricultural  machines. He went on to open a factory in Ipswich which still continues today.
 John Urpeth Restrick
 Engineer and inventor.
Richard Roberts
Mechanical engineer and inventor. Invented a screw-cutting machine, gas meter and planning machines used in spinning machinery. Invented a number of spinning machines and railway locomotives.
Worked initially in a quarry as a labourer. Apprenticed and pupil of Henry Maudslay after running away from recruiting sergeants
 John Roebuck
 English inventor. Improved refining methods of precious metals. Founded the Carron Foundry.
Educated at Edinburgh and Leyden.
Benjamin Rumford
Scientist and administrator. Investigator of energy/Invented the shadow photometer and introduced the concept of the standard candle/Technical education/Royal Institution
School/Apprenticeship/Harvard University
 John Scott Russell
  Canal engineer
 Titus Salt.
 Wool manufacturer and business person.
Thomas Savery
Inventor and military engineer. Invented the paddle system on boats. Invented the first practical steam engine in 1698 which was improved by Thomas Newcomen.
Military engineer
Samuel Seaward
Cranes, dredgers, swing bridges and many other inventions
A pupil of Henry Maudslay
John Smeaton
Civil engineer. Researched the mechanics of waterwheels and windmills. Lighthouse design e.g. Eddystone. Improved the Newcomen atmospheric steam engine. Founder of civil engineering profession.
School/Apprenticeship. Worked as a mathematical-instrument maker.
 Josiah Spode
 A master potter and managed factory in Stoke-on Trent. Researched methods of making porcelain. A pioneer in the pottery industry.
George Stephenson
Railway engineer. Steam locomotives
Evening classes three nights a week paying 4 pence a week. Began as a colliery engine-wright. Gained direct work experience in mining engineering /Apprenticeship
Robert Stephenson
Mechanical and structural engineer. Steam locomotive design/bridges
Self-taught with help from his father George. Attended a village school and then his father sent him to a private school and then apprenticed at Killingworth Colliery which he did not complete but then gained valuable experience in railway engineering.
Jedediah Strutt
Knitting machines worked with Richard Arkwright. Established a hosiery business in Derby. Built a number of mills and provided homes for his workers.
Apprenticed millwright . largely self taught.
 Joseph Wilson Swan
 Chemist and physicist. Inventor of improved electric lights.
 Apprenticed to druggist
 William Symington
Scottish engineer and inventor. Patented engines for road locomotion and steam boats.
Mechanic at Wanlockhead mine.
Thomas Telford
Civil engineer. Canal/road engineer e.g. Caledonian canal started in 1804. Innovative Aqueduct and bridge design and construction.
Attended a local parish school. Apprenticeship (Stonemason) Langholm and self taught.
Charles Tennant
Chemist and industrialist. Textiles/Dying/bleaching
Studied at a local school then apprenticeship as a silk weaver
 Sidney Gilchrist Thomas
 Inventor discovered how to separate phosphorus from iron in the Bessemer Converter.
 Self-taught and attended Birkbeck Institute.
 Robert Wilson Thomson
 Scottish inventor of the pneumatic tyre. Also made solid tyres for road steamers.
Richard Trevithick
Engineer and inventor. Steam engine (High-pressure steam engine 1800
Attended a local school but largely self taught and became a mining engineer
Jethro Tull
Agriculturalist. Seed drill (1701)/Introduction of improved farming methods
Oxford university
James Watt
Engineer and inventor. Steam engine design/Lunar Society. Carried out surveys for canals and harbours.
Taught by mother then some formal schooling-Greenock Grammar School and eventually gained experience as an instrument maker at Glasgow University. A mechanical genius who was very versatile.
Josiah Wedgewood
Chemist specialising in pottery/Lunar Society
Self educated/Apprenticeship (Pottery/thrower) but because of ill health broke the indenture and experimented with decorations, clay types and furnace technology.
 Charles Wheatstone
 Physicist involved in telegraphy with William Cooke (1806-1879).
Joseph Whitworth
Engineer and inventor. Machine tools/Screw threads. Planing machines, a power- driven self-acting machine and measuring machines. Established the Whitworth scholarships.
Attended his father’s school then as a boarder at a private school at Idle near Leeds but left at 14. Apprenticeship (Cotton spinning) and gained valuable work experience in Manchester and London engineering companies including the Maudslay workshops
John Wilkinson
Ironworker and inventor. Boring machine
Learnt working at his father’s side.
 Arthur Woolfe
1766-1837 .
 Improved the Watt steam engine





The Academic vs. Vocational Debate Revisited

The UNESCO Convention describes vocational education and training as:

  • “All forms and levels of the education process involving, in addition to general knowledge,
  • The study of technologies and related sciences
  • The acquisition of practical skills. Know-how, attitudes and understanding relating to occupations in the various sectors of economic and social life”

I believe this description states the true value of vocational qualifications and occupations. It is inclusive of all vocational disciplines and levels. It conveys the importance of competence/capability, generic and specialised skills, performance, problem solving and understanding. But for a number of reasons the situation in reality is very different, as this viewpoint will try and explain.

The history of technical and commercial education and training on this website identified and described the issues that have bedevilled the debates associated with academic and vocational education and training and the related qualifications and awards. In spite of a number of reviews over decades little has changed and the qualification system has continued to be dominated by the so-called gold standards of ‘A’ levels and full-time honours degrees. These qualifications have been protected by successive governments whilst technical, professional and vocational qualifications have been subjected to superficial periodic reviews and reforms that did not resolve the fundamental issues associated with these qualifications. These reforms have still not created a parity of esteem between the general/academic and vocational qualifications or even begun to counter/neutralise the negative perception of vocationally orientated qualifications and awards. The negative perception has deeply embedded cultural and historical roots as a result of the class structure. British education system like so much is driven be snobbery and class divisions.

One of the reasons is the debate is made more complicated by the way the word vocational is selectively perceived by people in spite of the description given above. Vocational qualifications and their associated occupations are perceived through a wide spectrum of interpretation. For example finance, law and medicine are seen as high status professions and involve study at degree level. Whilst other vocational occupations and their associated qualifications like automobile mechanics, hairdressing and plumbing are perceived as second class or of a lower status.
A number of factors can be identified that have created this wide distinction and the negative perception and attitude towards many technical, commercial and vocational education and training programmes, qualifications and occupations. These include reputation, understanding and relevance.

There is a strong correlation in this country between the status and reputation of vocational education and training and what occupation the learner is pursuing i.e. it is a social class/status issue reflecting the continuing presence and influence of social class distinctions. Although as stated above some vocational programmes are seen as being of high status, craft and trade professions are perceived as low status which are often lowly paid and part-time. Even when society places a higher status on some vocational occupations e.g. nursing and teaching these are not fully valued, recognised or well paid.

The persistence of inaccurately informed attitudes is fed in the education system initially by poor careers information, advice and guidance or that which does not counter the prevailing prejudices within society. Those in positions of influence and power in education have inevitably little or no direct experience of these vocational areas having come through the traditional academic route i.e. GCE’A’ level /degree and then direct into education. In fact the vocational education and training system is seen by all the key players and even the learners themselves as confusing because:

  • Teachers are often unable to provide professionally informed advice and guidance to the learners.
  • Employers experience difficulties in assessing the value of the multitude of vocational qualifications that exist and too often experience problems gauging the applicants ability and employment potential
  • Parents who continue to strongly influence their children’s choice and are often captives of their own educational background
  • College and University admission tutors experience problems trying to map the so-called equivalence of the multitude of vocational qualifications
  • The learners often have insufficient access to impartial, up to date and informed information, advice and guidance about courses and careers
  • There is little recognition that many vocational qualifications can be as economically rewarding as academic awards and more aptly lend themselves to developing one’s own business – these qualifications possess relevance


    The false perception that these lowly viewed vocations do not include knowledge and cognition aspects – there is a misapprehension that the manual/physical aspects of the job over-ride the intellectual/cerebral and many sadly still imagine that understanding, cognitive and cerebral aspects are marginal and it’s all about brawn over brain! Hence they are lowly valued vocations.

The situation has not been helped by the ever changing nature of the vocational qualifications themselves when compared with the academic qualifications. The latter have remained relatively unchanged for many decades. Another element that has held back any major reform of all qualifications is the obsession with curriculum frameworks and the concept of distinct qualification and occupational pathways or routes. Over the recent past we have had academic/general, general vocational, vocational, work-based etc qualifications and frameworks. This approach surely reinforces the perceived hierarchy of qualification and occupations and has in turn given rise to a plethora of terms e.g. craft, trade, operative, technician, technologist, professional and chartered et al.

Also there is a multitude of vocational qualifications that have been subjected to numerous reforms and this in turn has caused confusion and uncertainty as to their value to employers and other stake holders and end users. Interesting to note there are more HE degree titles than vocational qualifications but this is never highlighted in the debates!

Relevance is a very useful concept when describing vocational qualifications that are lowly perceived as they do more readily lend themselves to setting up one’s own business and offer greater opportunities to earn a living post-qualification. Sadly the usefulness of qualifications to the individual and the idea of constantly renewed economy through positive attitudes and values in relation to vocationalism hardly gets a look-in. Those who take the vocational route are tacitly or openly regarded as ‘uncultured’ -a classic response in a class ridden society!

Final comment
The major and fundamental issues are about the perception by society coupled with the ignorance, misunderstandings and inherent problems associated with vocational education and training qualifications and occupations. Essentially it is the issues associated with the social status of the occupations that the students have prepared and studied for.

‘To learn or not to learn?’

Successive governments have attempted to set performance indicators that focus on graduates obtaining employment within 6 months of graduating. Also targets have been established over the past few decades for monitoring staying on and participation rates for 16 to 19 year olds. It might be useful to consider in more depth issues associated with student retention, achievement as well as some of the wider reasons of people who do not participate in education and training.

This is particularly important at a time of recession and high unemployment especially for young people currently at 22% (1st quarter of 2012). These issues are particularly important in technical and vocational courses/programmes that often attract fewer students. Student retention and achievement rates justifiably continue to be an important issue for colleges, training providers and universities. Obviously, colleges and universities wish to see all their students succeed and have value added to them through their studies and the associated learning opportunities and experiences afforded to them by their institutions.

The institutions are acutely aware how important retention and achievement data is in the determination of high institutional inspection grades, but concerns still persist regarding the validity, reliability and probity of the data and the process associated with the interpretation by inspectors and assessors for a particular institution. These concerns persist even with the introduction of nationally validated benchmarking data and the greater opportunities afforded by self-assessment reports.

**These allow colleges to articulate their own assessment of their performance in terms of retention and achievement drawing attention to contextual mitigating factors, reflecting their mission and recognising more accurately the nature of their student populations. Any identification or exploration of these concerns brings into play many key higher and further education issues. Each key issue (retention, achievement and non-participation) is inter-related to the other but for the purposes of clarification, here they will be considered separately.

There is no one major determining factor which causes a student to leave a course, and as such retention is a complex and multidimensional issue. There are many factors that may lead to withdrawal from a course/programme. The recent changes and in some cases the removal of benefits, grants and discretionary awards means some students are unable to continue their studies. Financial difficulties figure significantly in student withdrawal and drop-out. Students often carry inherited debts throughout their studies and a time comes when they can no longer afford to stay at college or university. Many attempt to obtain part-time work but find it increasingly difficult to balance the commitment that requires with the need for effective learning practices. Any member of an Access Fund Panel realises what very great sacrifices students of all ages are now making to return to study. Sadly, increasing numbers of students just cannot continue to accumulate further debt. Furthermore, the recent significant changes in higher education tuition fees can only serve to fully exacerbate the situation. Despite constant debate surrounding this, little recognition has been applied to the position of post-16 students, mainly in colleges of further education. The majority already has major debt, which will be continued and considerably increased by higher education studies.

The domestic situation of a student can change considerably and suddenly, often leading to a withdrawal from studies. Cultural and social pressures combined with seemingly all-important materialism can lead to complex and subtle forms of peer pressure. Many students find it increasingly difficult, especially if they are struggling financially, to maintain a supposed lifestyle that is extolled by the media and often by their employed friends. The pressures have increased in complexity over recent decades, particularly when considering younger students.

Some students manage to find employment and leave a course. Given the volatile and uncertain world of employment, one cannot blame them. Perhaps colleges and universities should celebrate the fact that their students have found work, whilst also studying. Hopefully those jobs will be secure and offer opportunities for further study and training and often the students will return to the colleges or universities to continue their studies whilst in employment. The existing uncertainties in the world of work and employment surely provide validation for resorting to work at times rather than study on the part of many students.

Another consideration regarding the dropout rate has to be the course itself. The wrong choice of course possibly arises from poor and inadequate guidance, advice and information, whether at school or from early contact with the institution. Honest broker and objective guidance is central to any institution’s recruiting activity. That guidance must not solely be of the highest order at entry but must continue during the on-programme study. If students realise they are on the wrong course then they should be offered honest and open guidance to alternatives, not only within the institution but also at other institutions. The learner must be the central priority and must not be subverted by institutional priorities. If inadequate support is given students will inevitably leave. This leaves a possibility of them feeling that their interests have not been well served by education institutions and could deter them from considering to return to study later. Finally the course must be fit for purpose for the learner’s purpose, more fully prepare them for employment and give them confidence that if a technical and vocational course is their choice it possess a parity of esteem with the academic courses at the same level.

Colleges and universities must do all they can to make certain that they improve their retention rate, primarily through continued support and guidance of their students. Equally, however, they must realise that many students will withdraw for reasons well beyond their control. Sadly, due to financial pressures, students will seek employment or feel that they cannot sustain useful study while carrying such large debts. The uncertainty of gaining future employment must also have an impact, so colleges and universities must understand and respect the reasons for students’ withdrawal. This involves careful consideration and management of these issues along with great care in articulation regarding self-assessment reports.

Unfortunately the media often pick up detail from league tables and refer to them as ‘flunk factors’ but this is too simplistic. They do not tell the true story. Behind every student withdrawal there lies a whole series of reasons. It is important that institutions understand that, but equally important that the members of the public do not read too much into these simplistic league tables. Moreover, politicians must not begin to introduce simplistic knee-jerk and punitive measures against institutions that, at face value, do not have high retention rates (see ** paragraph marked above). Institutions must be allowed opportunities to explain why the retention rates have reached their current levels. Improvements can be made, but there needs to be a realistic view taken that very often the determining factors for withdrawal are beyond the control of the institutions and also beyond the control of the individual students.

League tables abound for achievement and obviously colleges and universities want to see all their students succeed. However, many achievement issues are not picked up by the very narrow definition of achievement often used by the inspectors. The model continues to be very traditional. It is centred on full awards, time served ‘courses’ and there is an expectation that a student, once enrolled, will complete the qualification. Therefore, even accepting that a number of students will withdraw for the reasons given above, there are also complications about whether they will achieve any sort of recognition for the parts they have studied.

Increasingly many students wish to take part awards, often supported by their sponsors/employers. They do not wish to do a full award but pursue various parts of a programme of study, achieving a number of modules or units. The current way of recognising achievement most certainly does not fully recognise these transformations in student and sponsor expectation. For many reasons, often prominently financial, the employer may want to sponsor just a number of aspects of a particular programme of study. With increasing frequency, the learner of the future will enter study and leave and then return later and wish to see an accumulation of recognition of their achievements. They may not always want access to study on only time-served full awards and qualifications.

Very often colleges are heavily criticised for apparently low achievement rates when, within a certain programme of study, many of the students have gained significant proportions of that award. It truly is time for the funding methodology to recognise this change and most certainly for the inspectors to recognise part-achievement. This is not a reflection of failure by the student and/or the institution. It merely reflects the changing nature of demand from the student and also from their employer: demand which may be attributable to financial limitations on how large a chuck of study a student can afford to pay for at any time and/or the amount of time a student can spare for study alongside earning a living.
Increasingly, many programmes of study involve a great deal of work place learning and assessment e.g. engineering and construction studies. In this situation the student’s programme is experienced through a partnership between the college and the employer. Different parts of the learning and assessment will take place in either the college or the work place. This development is to be welcomed because it brings increasing authenticity to both the employer’s and the institution’s role. However too often the inspection framework only recognises achievement within the college. This narrow approach surely requires review and reform. This is a particularly important issue when considering apprenticeships and courses that offer significant work experience elements.

Again, the current situation reflects a very traditional model of teaching and learning matched also by the increasing obsession with time-served qualifications and awards. This is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, not only to learners but also to employers. Provision has to be more flexible, responsive and relevant and be available in small bites that will be funded and recognised as achievement even though it is part-achievement. When that learning and achievement is also embedded in sustained work place practice it has a validity which other context-less qualifications cannot ever contemporaneously demonstrate.

Another interesting aspect relates to the students who leave to get work. As mentioned earlier, the inspectors and assessors see this as the institution’s failure. This raises some very interesting issues about how to recognise achievement. If the student, for example, is studying a full-time course and is offered a job and leaves, they could then be sponsored by their employer to return to the same institution but to study for a part-time equivalent course. When the inspectors examine retention and achievement data they will not accept that a large number of the students on some programmes of study where employment prospects are buoyant have indeed succeeded. They have secured a job. This is possibly the ultimate indicator of success, but the colleges and universities are increasingly being criticised for apparently losing their students and not bringing them to a successful conclusion of their course. It really is quite a bizarre contradiction. Statistical data needs to be more refined to track student progressions and destinations.

It clearly is important that a fundamental review is taken of the notion of students’ success. Because of the recession uncertainties now exist within society and the increasing financial difficulties that students find themselves exposed to, they will increasingly return to study part-time or in flexible ways dictated by their own circumstances. The funding and inspection models operated must more fully recognise this changing pattern of part-award and a more extended period of study, albeit on an interrupted basis.

The current obsession with traditional qualifications and awards needs to be questioned. The accelerating knowledge and skill base demanded by world economic and technological developments raises questions about the validity of time served programmes of study. They are very often dated by the time the students complete and graduate from them. Consequently, employers may not see them as relevant to their needs.

Non Participating Individuals often referred to as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETS)
Inclusive learning and an inclusive society are currently highly publicised. Colleges have, for decades, played a major part in offering second chance opportunities to people and encouraging those who have not traditionally studied. They have a long and credible track record, only partly recognised by successive governments. The FE sector and its constituent colleges are committed to playing a major part in any government’s priorities for widening participation and inclusive learning. However, a degree of realism needs to be injected into the debate. Lifelong learning assumes that all people want to learn. This needs to be carefully analysed. There are many people who had opportunities in the past who have not taken up those opportunities for all kinds of reasons. They have their own lifestyle, they have a view about education and training or they possibly had bad experiences at school. Perhaps they feel their success in work and life does not merit them thinking of returning to study. Sadly, there are many for whom exclusion through disadvantage has been constant, but again one needs to think carefully about whether they are ‘thirsting’ to return to study. They need to be encouraged to return to study but it begs questions concerning what is on offer. If it is traditional provision it will not work. The existing curriculum offer needs to be urgently reformed with a wider range of courses particularly in the technical, commercial and vocational areas. For it to succeed people need to view it as relevant to their lives and work chances and recognise that it adds value to their existence (in these cases it may not be related to formal qualifications.) Again, these points reflect the concern that is prominent regarding the obsession with qualifications and their associated standards.

For lifelong learning to be successful, it has to be enjoyable, it has to be attractive and it has to add value to people’s lives. It must not focus solely on studying for a qualification – especially when job opportunities are limited or may not be available at this time of recession and austerity. There have to be measures that both prompt a return to study and also overcome the barriers that deter people from doing so.

First version of this article published in March 1999 in ‘t’ magazine.