Chapter 14 – Developments in the 1980s

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series A Short History of Technical Education


So far this short history has attempted to show how technical and commercial education evolved along with the associated systems and surrounding infrastructures. The picture that has emerged is one of a fragmented and uncoordinated landscape possessing unnecessary complexity and lacking any real coherence. Even when progress occurred it often depended critically on the efforts of a relatively small number of visionaries and philanthropic individuals. The history unfortunately reflects a contradictions catalogue of false dawns and raised expectations in spite of the opportunities that had been created by such individuals or by the obstacles of the prevailing political, financial or social climate e.g. at times of recession or wars. The continual reluctance of political parties to intervene and recognise the importance of technical and commercial education as a way of increasing productivity and reducing skill gaps and shortages, also contributed to the parlous state of this strategically important sector. Employers in this country, in stark contrast to our major competitors, continually failed to invest in training, preferring to take people direct from college or university or to poach employees from other companies – after all they argued it was cheaper! In addition the assumption that the country could attract skilled workers from overseas was ethically questionable as we poached workers who had been trained in their own countries and therefore had allowed this country to reduce its own training costs. The organisations that represent the employers and employees namely the CBI and the TUC continued to have little influence on government policy. In – house company training programmes were limited to a relatively small number of enlightened industries e.g. automotive (Ford/ Rover), aerospace (BAE), with most other employers arguing that they already contributed the funding for state education via the tax system.

The 1980s witnessed the development of an array of initiatives most of which failed to rectify the continuing problems and concerns about declining productivity, skills shortages at all levels in manufacturing, the public services and in key subjects such as science, manufacturing and mathematics. Research by now had shown a direct correlation between productivity and skill levels e.g. moving 1 % of the workforce from unskilled to skilled level would bring about 2% increase in productivity. International league tables continued to show that the country was failing to keep pace with technological and economic change and its inability to stem its decline in international competitiveness. For example an earlier publication by the National Economic Development Office publication ‘Competence and Competition’ (1984) had already demonstrated this country’s economic decline in comparison with our trading competitors.

It was clear by the 1980s that fundamental mismatches existed between the providers of specialised technical education and training, the labour market and technical/vocational qualifications. As a result of the absence of a national strategy for technical education and training no identifiable mechanisms existed to manage and coordinate effectively all the disparate elements in the system which still lacked unity and coherence. As a result of ad hoc growth a multitude of separate organisations had acquired varying degrees of responsibility in such aspects as funding, student support, examinations and assessment and inspection. This inevitably created massive inertia in the system especially when reforms were being advocated. Many of the organisations associated with technical education were very parochial and proud of their history and this often led to reluctance to embrace fundamental changes, which could have threatened their own integrity. Successive reforms in key areas of technical education had often floundered because of the resistance of organisational interests e.g. development of NVQs, GNVQs and A level reform (see later). Also one only has to look at the number of professional bodies that oversee such disciplines as engineering, mathematics to see the absurd situation that still exists and how this continues to impede essential reforms that are urgently required. The recent growth of quangos and agencies most of which are largely unaccountable has further exacerbated the already confused and crowned landscape resulting in an often chaotic management of technical and commercial education and training – see chapters 15 and 16 about the negative and pernicious impact of quangos and agencies. It is important to note that many of these organisations still have responsibility for accrediting and approving technical qualifications.

The following list of examining bodies illustrates how confusing and complicated the technical and commercial examinations landscape in the 1980s had become.

  • • Vocational bodies such as CGLI, BTEC, RSA, LCCI et al
  • • Six regional examining bodies (REBs)
  • • Approximately 250 professional bodies including 76 with royal charters and other non-chartered bodies which together represented such disciplines as chemistry, engineering, construction and management.
  • A number of standard setting bodies such as the joint industry councils, non-statutory industry training organisations e.g. Chemical Industries’ Association
  • 120 industry training organisations of which 8 were Industry Training Boards with statutory responsibilities. Many possessed mechanisms to train and assess and some had developed joint certification in such areas as engineering, and agriculture.
  • In spite of this bewildering array of organisations other fundamental weaknesses existed namely:
  • Lack of a clear and comprehensible framework for vocational and technical qualifications
  • Considerable overlaps and duplication of qualifications across the awarding bodies
  • Major gaps in provision particularly in the newer technologies
  • Ill-defined protocols for progression, transition and transfer both for students and subjects
  • Continued inflexible arrangements in colleges and examination boards creating barriers for entry and attendance
  • Little understanding of how to assess in the work place
  • Assessment skewed towards testing knowledge rather than skills and competence in real working environments
  • Lack of systems to assess prior learning and experience especially in the work place

Progress of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) and Industrial Training

It was only with the creation of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) that the first attempt to develop a national labour market and training policy occurred. However it became very clear when the state eventually became involved that the government departments e.g. Employment, Education, Trade and Industry and the Treasury possessed little empathy or understanding of industry and this weakness continues sadly even today. In 1986 the MSC reached its apogee with an annual budget of £3 billion and responsibility for a massive range of programmes spanning training, upskilling of employed and unemployed adults and young people. The extensive empire included Information Technology Centres (ITCs)- Centres for the unemployed (TUC sponsored), Adult Training Centres etc. However most of the programmes were aimed at the lower skill levels and/or youth unemployment and perpetuated the culture of the low skills equilibrium. Therefore the initiatives failed to create the comprehensive set of programmes to tackle the problems associated with skill gaps and shortages at both low and higher levels of the skills spectrum. These coupled with other factors highlighted in earlier chapters meant that technical education was never given the status it deserved and failed to achieve the critical mass that was so necessary to create a coherent national system.

The period during the reign of the MSC has often been referred to as ‘training without jobs’ meaning it was a political ploy to keep people off the unemployment registers and make the government look good in regard to youth unemployment. The participation of people on the programmes/schemes took them off the unemployment register so the statistics were massaged to look better and could be positively spun – so what changes? Eventually all this investment and apparent interest in technical education and training began to wane and the power and influence of the MSC declined. By the late 1980s unemployment was beginning to decline and the YTS was re-launched as Youth Training (YT) but the perception was that all the programmes were just political treatments, cures or palliatives for unemployment. The Youth Training Scheme was eventually renamed the New Deal (ND) in 1998. The MSC launched another initiative called the Job training Scheme (JTS) but it quickly failed through lack of numbers. The climate shifted back to the traditional academic approach and the investment in work based training declined as politicians expanded the so-called academic route of ‘A’ levels and degrees. Eventually the MSC lost favour with the government as radical members and groups from the right and its responsibilities were moved to the Department of Trade and in May 1988 when it was renamed the Training Commission and finally abolished in the following September. The MSC was replaced by the by the Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs).

During the existence of the MSC billions of pounds were spent on a wide range of schemes and initiatives many related to youth training. Overall little was achieved for most of the trainees. The reason for this somewhat harsh judgement is that so many of the initiatives were based on short term political priorities, many of the schemes/programmes never lasted long enough to be properly evaluated and the MSC had many critics who eventually weakened and undermined its influence. Many of the schemes/programmes in principle possessed real potential and if properly supported and resourced could have made a significant contribution to the shape and operation of technical and training and also could have provided viable future frameworks and models for work based and work placed curricula. Possible examples of potentially good schemes include CPVE, YTS, PICKUP and most certainly TVEI. It is a shame that some of the good practices have not been picked up by the later attempts to reform work based/placed education and training but too often policy makers and politicians suffer from amnesia and always want to launch their new initiatives.

Industrial Training also came under government review. This review led to the ‘Employment and Training Act’ (1981) which allowed the Secretary of State for Employment to completely review and reform the ITBs as he wished. Initially the ITBs were granted wider powers but this achieved very little and the number of ITBs declined. As mentioned only two remained namely the Engineering and Construction Boards and because of the nature of their respective workforces e.g. mainly peripatetic the boards continued to operate the levy/grant system. The ITBs were then replaced by 170 non-statutory Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) but because they were supported only on a voluntary basis by the employers coupled with inadequate funding the majority of these failed to develop and quickly foundered.

Non-Advanced FE (NAFE), the Technical Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) and the Growing Power of the MSC

The MSC was at the height of its powers between 1982 and 1986 with massive amounts of funding and growing involvement in education and training for the 16 to 19 age groups. Their power was further extended in 1984 when assumed responsibility for non-advanced FE (NAFE) work-related provision and allowed the Commission to assume control of 25% of the budgets held by LEAs for their FE colleges – a development not welcomed by the LEAs! The MSC as a result of this change could purchase provision operated at colleges as and when they determined. Again this caused problems with colleges and raised tensions between them and their LEAs.

The other major initiative introduced by the MSC was the Technical Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) that represented, in 1980s, by far the largest important innovation in the secondary school curriculum and related staff development. The initial refusal to benefit from the significant levels of additional funding and resources that were being made available presented LEAs and the schools with all sorts of challenges. Initially the TVEI attracted criticisms centred on the dangers of creating greater divisions and tensions between comprehensive schools and the fact that the Department of Employment and the powerful quango MSC were operating the initiative rather than the LEAs. But as the initiative continued the criticism and hostility moderated because the schools and the LEAs could see that the funding would bring about improved facilities and resources in their establishments. In addition to TVEI the MSC introduced TVEI Related In-Service Training (TRIST) which also added significant value to teacher training and most certainly improved and strengthened relationships through school and college partnerships.

The TVEI was aimed at introducing technical and vocational subjects into schools and developing effective partnerships between schools and colleges. In 1983 14 pilots were initiated and by 1986 there were 65,000 students in 600 institutions pursuing four year work-related programmes. Concerted efforts made the school curriculum more relevant to post-school and the students took recognised qualifications across a number of commercial, technical and vocational qualifications. I was very involved with the TVEI in Cornwall and was impressed by the way better working relationships were established between the college and the partner schools. New innovative courses were introduced in such subjects as biotechnology, commerce, information technology and technology and commerce. One interesting aspects of TVEI was the tension between it and the National Curriculum (NC) as TVEI possessed a fair degree of freedom to offer subjects and curriculum that were in stark contrast to the NC which was very heavily prescriptive and centrally controlled by the government. TVEI promised much but ultimately failed because of the high cost and the negativity from a growing number of people who were hostile to the MSC. The government realised that it could not fund a fully-fledged TVEI so decided to develop a few specialist institutions namely City Technology Colleges (CTCs) which were supposed to transform vocational studies at school level. The creation of the CTCs from 1987 established a new structural and funding model which has continued to this day, namely, to create and fund a few flagship institutions. Politically and financially the approach makes sense but does nothing to increase the volume of technically qualified people entering employment. Obviously fewer institutions require less funding and this allows the government of the day to micro-manage these so called centres of excellence and then crow about their attempts to improve technical and vocational education. This model was created by the Conservatives and has been fully embraced and extended by New Labour. Examples currently (2009) include specialist schools, City Academies, Beacon Schools and Centres of Excellence in Colleges and Training Organisations (COVES). Centres of Excellence in

Colleges and Training Organisations were tasked to achieve:

  • A clear understanding of current and future skills needs
  • Provision which is directly related to the current and future needs of work and fully up to date in terms of specialised content
  • Up to date knowledge and skills of teaching staff
  • Learning opportunities that meet learners’ and employers’ needs in terms of method, time and location of delivery and in terms of learning outcomes. It will be particularly important that Centres adopt strategies to provide access and participation of groups traditionally excluded from learning or disadvantaged in the labour market
  • Opportunities for new entrants or returnees to a specialist labour market to prepare for the world of work and for those already employed in that labour market to upgrade their skills
  • Volume and level of provision that meets current and future employer demand.

It all sounds very familiar and again we will have to wait to see if this initiative brings about any lasting improvement in technical education and training.

The main problem with this cherry picking approach is that it is too little and too late and cannot hope to create the critical mass that is so urgently required to address skills gaps and shortages. It also introduces a possible destructive degree of competition between providers. Also the involvement and sponsorship of private business and individuals can create some worrying issues in regard to influence over subjects taught.

The Academic Vocational Divide and Reforms to GCE ‘A’ Levels

One of the constant and contentious issues was the so-called academic vocational divide. It is important to remember that technical and commercial education has never been fully recognised and resourced and sadly still failed to achieve comparable status and recognition with that of the university and school sectors. The subjects and qualifications have as a result been seen as second class and perceived as designed for the less able. A great deal of empty rhetoric has been expounded over many decades since GCE ‘A’ levels were introduced in 1951 about the need to establish parity of esteem between technical and vocational and the so-called academic qualifications. These endless debates especially after the early 1980s also advocated the creation of equality between colleges, schools and university sectors but these hopes and intentions had little lasting impact or effect. Many reviews were initiated. A number of reviews of GCE ‘A’ levels after the 1980s e.g. Macfarlane (1980), Higginson Report (1988) took place but did not bring about any real change in the status of technical commercial and vocational qualifications. The implementation of these reviews was limited to a tinkering with the qualification system and the gold-standard of GCE ‘A’ levels remained largely unchanged. The latest review by Tomlinson although it came up with some promising proposals but was rumoured to have been summarily dismissed by the then Secretary of State over a cup of afternoon tea! The hope that technical and vocational qualifications will attain parity of esteem with academic qualifications has yet to be realised. The present government (2008) has recently announced yet another review of the curriculum including GCE ‘A’ levels.

Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE)

This qualification merits further description as it was in essence a very forward looking and relevant award for 17 year olds particularly those who had been low achievers at school. The development can be traced from the seminal publication in 1979 by the Further Education Unit (FEU) entitled ‘A Basis for Choice’ which became known as the ABC study. The curriculum framework was taken up by the CGLI and developed the existing ‘356’ course. The curriculum framework proposed by the FEU comprised a common core configured into 12 broad areas to be assessed by ‘observable performances to be expected of students and that learning experiences which they should be offered’.  The core would occupy 60% of the curriculum time and the remaining 40% of the time would be taken up by ‘vocational studies’ and ‘job specific studies’. Some institutions developed work placements for the students. The government announced in the policy statement ‘Examinations 16-18’ that the CPVE would succeed the Certificate of Extended Education (CEE). This new qualification was jointly developed by BTEC, CGLI and Royal Society of Arts which formed a JOINT Board but with little involvement from the DES and the universities. Pilots were launched in 1983 but the qualification never really became accepted by schools and colleges. The award were further undermined by the development of first awards by BTEC which had a wider appeal to students because of their subject specific emphasis as opposed to a broad based 17+ CPVE. Also the RSA withdrew from the Joint Board because of funding problems and then continued to develop its own of pre-vocational and vocational commercial and other subject awards. Ultimately competition between the awarding bodies and financial problems killed off the CPVE. A common and I feel a false criticism was that it was aimed at low achievers so students, parents and some employers were reluctant to give the award their full support.

Quick Review of Situation in Regard to Colleges and the LEAs

The relatively small growth in the scale of technical education and training since the 1940s did not compensate for the decades of neglect. As mentioned before the FE sector had become the major provider of technical education and training by default and was often referred to as the Cinderella sector of education. Although the local authorities had responsibility for the colleges many did not exercise their duties in developing the colleges, preferring to support what they knew best namely the school sector. Discretionary powers allowed the local authorities and local education authorities to exercise widely differing approaches to FE colleges and this was to cause major problems when colleges gained independence from them following incorporation in 1992. As a result of these varying degrees of discretion the FE sector institutions had become very heterogeneous and diverse in terms of size, quality and most certainly in regard to their commitment to technical education.

The National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)

In 1981 the MSC published a report called ‘A New Training Initiative (NTI). This report considered two key issues namely occupational standards and young people. Youth unemployment continued to cause major concerns and many of the government- funded schemes/programmes did not provide certificated training. Potential employers were uncertain about the experience and skill levels achieved by the young people. So in 1985 the White Paper ‘Education and Training for Young People’ was published which led to the creation of a working party to review vocational qualifications in England and Wales. The report entitled ‘the Review of Vocational Qualifications’ was chaired by Oscar de Ville and was the first fundamental attempt to review and reform vocational qualifications. The review created the National Council for National Qualifications (NCVQ). One of its main aims was to rationalise and modernise the vocational qualifications. This scope clearly embraced the technical and commercial subjects and was meant to bridge the often contentious divide between academic and vocational qualifications. The divide has plagued the whole area of debate concerning technical and commercial education and its qualifications. As a result of the review the NCVQ was charged with creating a comprehensive framework for vocational qualifications to meet the needs of the employment sector and individual candidates. The qualification system was to be based on occupational standards or competences which were to be defined by industry/employer-led bodies. The competence-based qualifications also required demonstration of both practical and intellectual skills with the relevant underpinning knowledge needed in the workplace. Another advantage was that the assessments were to be located in the work place and not through college based simulation. After it was established the NCVQ started kite marking existing vocational qualifications and located them at four levels namely basic (Level 1), standard (level2), advantaged (level 3) and higher (4). Later it extended to level 5 representing professional qualifications.

The Review did pick up many of the defects mentioned earlier in this chapter about the multitude of examinations bodies and the resultant problems of confusion and unnecessary duplication and competition. The Review members re-iterated that there had been no effective national system of vocational qualifications and the existing system had evolved in an ad hoc fashion rather than being carefully designed. Some professional bodies offered highly valued and regarded qualifications whilst others offered none. The qualifications landscape was confused and muddled and equally important was not responsive to the changing needs of employers and the changing nature of work. Key issues were therefore addressed by the Review Group and it identified that any future qualifications framework must be:

  • Consistent, reliable and well structured
  • Realistic and accessible with opportunities for smooth progression
  • Able to offer recognition for the skills people already had i.e. assessment of prior experience and learning (APL/APEL)
  • Created and implemented in partnership with employers and providers

All very obvious and worthy as always the devil was in the detail as time would show as the implementation of their intentions unfolded!

The structure of the NVQ framework is shown below:

  • Title – the name of the occupation area
  • Level – indicates where this qualification is located in the NVQ framework
  • Units (splits into elements) – describe the areas of activity within the occupation
  • Performance criteria – describes in detail the activities involved and establishes the specific standards against which the candidates is assessed
  • Range (or evidence requirements) – describes the circumstances in which the candidate needs to achieve the performance criteria in order to demonstrate competence
  • Knowledge – what the candidate needs to know in order to carry out the occupational task competently.

The progress and general reception of this important and worthy reform has been mixed since its introduction. New occupational qualifications were introduced where none had previously existed but it did not act as a catalyst to bring about a unified framework for all qualifications offered post-16. A number of misinformed academics questioned the value and validity of NVQs and these concerns were given high profile coverage in the media. One of the inevitable criticisms advanced by these academics was that the system was too dominated by employers and based on employment-led competence defined and set by industry lead bodies. In other words it implied that the employers did not know what they needed! Such intellectual arrogance is not unknown in this country and remember the majority of these critics had never been in industry or commerce themselves and clearly were incapable of recognising the fact that their own researches in their ivory towers was largely irrelevant to the world of work! Sadly numbers of FE staff also were resistant to the introduction of NVQs and this coupled with a growing bureaucracy and high cost associated with introducing new approaches to delivery, the awards seemed to attract criticism. This negative attitude sadly has undermined the real benefits of NVQs which did recognise the true value of work-based assessment and attempts to involve employers. In spite of some flaws in the methodology they did not deserve the level of criticism they received. The first NVQs were awarded in1988. By 2002 nearly 3.75 million certificates had been awarded and a number of key groups had fully invested in their value e.g. the Royal Engineers. As always traditional qualifications i.e. GCE ‘A’ levels still remained dominant in the minds of employers, parents and students. Another problem with the effective delivery of NVQs was the expense of creating real working environments (RWEs) within colleges and staff competent to operate them. Another reason the traditional route i.e. the academic/general qualifications remained popular was the collapse of the manufacturing base in the UK during the ‘70/80s/90s and the rapid disappearance of apprenticeships. The loss of day/evening released students to local colleges to study craft and technician programmes created major problems for local authorities and colleges who replaced this lost provision with the traditional GCE subjects.

More recently in 2002/3 the then Department of Education and Skills (DfEE) defined NVQs as follows:

‘NVQs and their Scottish equivalents SVQs are qualifications for work. They are proof of a person’s ability to do a job. NVQs can be gained by people doing normal work and provide recognition for the skills and experience they have gained. And they allow people to gain new knowledge and skills throughout their working lives’.

The debate about the value of NVQs continues even today as a result of all the current reform of the vocational qualifications e.g. apprenticeships and vocational diplomas.

The New Training Initiative (1980)

To return briefly to the  publication ‘A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action’ published in 1980 which in many ways set an agenda for the 1980s. The publication articulated three national objectives namely:

  • Resources for a new Youth Training Scheme (YTS)
  • Creation of the Open Tech Programme – later to become the Open College
  • A target date for the completion of the modernisation and development of apprenticeships and other long-term training programmes
  • The development of more vocationally relevant provision in full-time education (TVEI), closer links between education, training services and industry in localities.

These initiatives were introduced but never really had much impact on the technical education and training scene. Current developments (2009) with apprenticeships still reflect a number of the issues raised in this seminal publication and others that were produced during the 1980s.

Personal Observations.

Academic drift continued in the 1980s and increasingly colleges recruited more and more students on non-technical programmes. Many technical departments in colleges were closed or merged to attempt to deal with the significant reductions in student numbers and the high cost of operating practically based subjects which recruited low student numbers. The main problem with this winding down is that once provision disappears it is almost impossible to restore it. The college loses qualified and experienced staff and facilities are very expensive to replace. One continuing problem in operating technical programmes in colleges, especially after the early 1980s, was the inevitable issues associated with high cost coupled with the relatively low level of student enrolments which made it very difficult to maintain quality of provision. As the provision in colleges shifted away from technical subjects, private providers moved into the field and although many were excellent but some were only interested maximising their profits and as result delivered a low quality service. Also many students leaving these private providers were not properly prepared or qualified to practisetheir profession. One way of dealing with this is to introduce an effective and compulsory licence to work regime and to require frequent checks on practitioners’ ability to keep up to date with new legislation and technologies and developments within their occupations. One classic area was in plumbing where even in the 1980s one could predict what would happen as colleges withdrew from this key discipline. A shortage of places would ensue and sure enough in the 1990s and 2000s the college sector was heavily criticised for not providing sufficient places for training plumbers. The funding regimes were insensitive and did not recognise or cover the high levels of expenditure that were required to deliver quality programmes. Other key technical areas also experienced similar problems and this continues even today. I was one of the people voicing concerns about the consequences of these developments in the 1980s and 1990s only in turn to be the butt of heavy criticism from the government and staff in the funding councils. However I did receive support from many professional bodies e.g. Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering which has recently received its charter. In time I will reprint on this website some of the articles written at the time and leave it to the reader to judge whether they were correct.

The new vocationalism that dominated the 1970s and 80s and largely driven by youth unemployment did little to address the fundamental weaknesses in technical education and training. The majority of initiatives were based on political expediency and short termism. In retrospect many MSC programmes are now seen as too narrow and simplistic as technical education involves more than just training for job specific skills but requires other wider skills and competencies. Another key factor was the continuing transition in the profiles of available employment i.e. from manufacturing to low-quality service work requiring low skill levels. These jobs were predominately part-time and as a result were seen by employers as not requiring any meaningful training. As manufacturing declined many politicians questioned whether the country actually needed more technically qualified people arguing that the country was a service- based economy. This perception has continued to this day especially as the global economy increases and the country positively encourages the out-sourcing of manufacturing to also to allow overseas companies to acquire or merge with our remaining home based manufacturing companies i.e. mergers and acquisitions. As the manufacturing base declined it also became more diverse involving products and services associated with entertainment, design, personal and financial services. Although this transition was possibly inevitable for the first industrialised nation the pendulum has swung too far to a service based economy and the essential balance between manufacturing and service has been lost.

Student Numbers in the 1980s.

Table 1 shows the destination rates during the 1980s and the impact of the MSC programmes. The table illustrates the percentage of the 16, 17 and 18 year-olds in 1981/2 and 1989/90.

Table 1. Percentage of Destinations by Young People between 1981/82 and 1989/90.

16 year olds 17 year olds 18 year olds
Destinations 81/82 89/90 81/82 89/90 81/82 89/90
Schools 31 34 19 23 2 3
FE 14 20 11 15 5.5 8
HE 0 0 0 0 8.5 10
YTS/YT 9 21 5 21 2 2
Employment 28 18 49 33 66 69
Unemployment 12 7 16 8 16 8

Sources: DFE Statistical Bulletins/DfEE.

One of the recurring themes in this history is the ability of this country to keep commissioning endless reviews and reports about the inadequacies in technical and commercial education. The published material invariably ends up on the shelf to gather dust and as a result has little or no impact. To complete this part on the 1980s and to illustrate this culture of review and reporting the following list shows some of the other relevant reports, reviews and initiatives.

Other Important Reports and Developments in the 1980s
Colleges were expected to respond to this multitude of pronouncements in spite of limited resources. Increasingly the funding from central government was being ring fenced for specific initiatives and programmes and this caused a number of problems for the institutions and their management a situation which continues at a pace today.

  • In 1980 ‘Education for 16-19 Year Olds’ (Macfarlane Report) published
  • In 1981 ‘A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action’ published announced first plans for the Youth Training Scheme (YTS)
  • In 1981 the ‘Employment and Training Act’ published that led the ESA and TSA being abolished
  • In 1982 ‘Employment and Training Act’ published that removed trade unions from decisions about costs of training on employers and set up regulatory framework for ITBs
  • In 1982 the ‘Cockcroft Report’ published a major review and report on mathematics
  • In 1982 TVEI launched with pilots started in 1983
  • In 1983 CPVE introduced
  • In 1983 the one year YTS introduced
  • In 1983 BEC and TEC merged into Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC)
  • In 1984 ‘Training for Jobs’ was published in which the government announced its Adult Training Strategy (ATS) and new arrangements concerning vocational education in FE
  • In 1985 ‘Development of Higher Education into the 1990s’ was published; it articulated the government’s thinking on the need for HE to contribute more effectively to improve the country’s economic performance
  • In 1985 ‘Education and Training for Young People’ published
  • In 1985 ‘Employment – the Challenge to the Nation!’ was published; it emphasised that the quality of the labour market needed to be improved and made more flexible in order to respond more effectively to the rapidly changing business climate.
  • In 1985/6 ‘Review of Vocational Qualifications’
  • In 1985 the ‘Further Education Act’ published; it gave colleges and polytechnics the right to sell goods and services from their activities
  • In 1985 the ‘Education and Training for Young People’ was published and as mention earlier announced a major expansion of YTS and highlighted the ridiculous number of vocational qualifications
  • In 1985 ‘Better Schools’ published; it announced policies to improve the preparation of young people for work
  • In 1985 the Certificate for Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) introduced
  • In 1986 YTS extended to two years
  • In 1986 “Working Together – Education and Training’ announced the extension nationally of the TVEI pilots, establishment of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ).
  • In 1987 City Technology Colleges Trust established – First CTC opened in Solihull in 1988
  • In 1987 Open College, (formally the Open Tech) created to provide open access to training and reskilling
  • In 1987 GCE Advanced Supplementary Examinations introduced (‘AS’) represented one half of an ‘A’-level course
  • In 1988 the Higginson Report published a major review of GCE ‘A’ levels
  • In 1988 MSC renamed the Training Commission (TC)
  • In 1988 ‘Employment Act’ was published. It introduced bridging allowance for young people waiting to take up YTS place
  • In 1988 ‘Education Reform Act (ERA)’ was published and included a wide range of reforms e.g. The introduction of the national curriculum and assessment. Universities Funding Council (UFC) replaced by the University Grants Committee (UGC) and polytechnics and large colleges of HE removed from LEA control. (1988)
  • In 1988 ‘Training for Employment’ was published and proposed a new Employment Training Scheme (ET) aimed at the unemployed
  • In 1988 ‘Employment for the 1990s’ was published and proposed the creation of the Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) and LECs and the remaining ITBs to be phased out
  • In 1989 TC abolished
  • In 1989 ‘Further Education a new strategy’ a speech by Kenneth Baker; itt proposed major reforms to FE and supposedly put the sector centre stage
  • In 1990 Youth Training Scheme (YTS) renamed Youth Training (YT)

As you can see the 1980s was a period of unprecedented change with the government assuming greater control of the education system. The colleges and schools were subjected to a multitude of policy changes and initiatives many of which were short-lived. Funding became increasingly ring fenced and the curriculum more and more prescribed. Chapter 15 describes the situation in the 1990s and with a new government the pace of change accelerated with a plethora of initiatives, targets, league tables and increasing central control.


A comprehensive book list is provided in a separate section of this website whilst primary resource publications area referenced at the end of each chapter.

In addition a comprehensive glossary and chronology are provided in separate sections of this website.

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