Chapter 15 – The Developments in the 1990s

This entry is part [part not set] of 20 in the series A Short History of Technical Education

Introduction and Review

In spite of all the government initiatives and the activities of the MSC and its successors during the 1980s technical education and training continued to be seen as second class. It was still a political pawn subject to the latest whim of a succession of governments which showed little understanding of its strategic importance to the country. What was still lacking was a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the purpose of the technical education and training system and its relationship to the country’s economic performance. This was in many ways the most critical factor that held back the development of a unified and coherent national system. This aspect will be considered in more depth in the final chapters of the history.

When the government changed in 1997 evidence from international surveys continued to show that the country was performing badly when compared with our main competitors. The country still had fewer young people in training and poorly qualified employees in most sectors of employment. The new government meant a new broom with all the inevitable consequences that would precipitate. The policy pendulum swings in the opposite direction irrespective of any positive progress that the previous administration had introduced. This history has shown that a change of government and/or Ministers inevitably leads to a multitude of ill-thought out initiatives and increasing centralist control of education guided by myriads of advisers, consultants, agencies and quangos. Targets and league tables which were of questionable value and driven by political agendas were introduced for practically every aspect of education and training, bureaucracy expanded exponentially and the quangos went from strength to strength. Two Green Papers the ‘Learning Age’ and ‘Lifelong Learning’ announced the government’s intentions and commitment towards lifelong learning (see later in chapter for more information about government proposals).

As a result of the expansion of student numbers in HE the country began to see increasing graduate unemployment as well as graduate under employment. As a result of the expansion in graduate numbers during the 1990s one could translate the 1980s headline ‘training without work’ into ‘education without work’. This unfortunate development reflects the inadequacy of managing the demand-supply equation and labour market intelligence. The current recession highlights the problems implicit in expanding the university sector without sufficient regard to the critical issues of supply and demand. In July 2009 an average of 50 graduates were applying for each job vacancy. The degree of frustration felt by the graduates must be extreme when one considers the debt they have on graduation the average student debt in 2009 was over £20,000. A fundamental review is now required about the purpose of higher education with particular regard to the range of subjects offered and the relative proportions of graduates in key areas like engineering, manufacturing and the mathematical and scientifically related subjects. Equally important is the complex issues associated with youth unemployment. To date there has been no real sustained or effective policies on youth unemployment only short term knee jerk reactions as can be seen by the latest policies being introduced currently ( July 2009). At times of recession/depression there are real opportunities to tackle youth training and to begin to address some of the long standing issues around skill shortages and gaps but sadly the governments go for head line grabbing initiatives that lead nowhere.

General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs).

Following the publication of the White Paper ‘Education for the 21st Century’ a new qualification was created namely the General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ). This qualification was a broadly-based vocational award set at three levels i.e. foundation, intermediate and advanced. It comprised a vocational theme with three core skills of communication, information technology and application of number. GNVQs more closely relates to the needs of employment than GCE ‘A’ level but even so they are only a general rather than specific preparation for work. By incorporating a range of core skills and cognitive processes the awards would be a foundation for future learning and life in general. It was hoped it would provide equity with GCSEs (intermediate level being equivalent to grades A* to C and foundation level equivalent to grades D to G) and GCE ‘A’ levels (advanced GNVQ being equivalent to GCE ‘A’ Levels). Sadly and very predictably this hope was never fully realised as the gold standard of ‘A’ levels ruled the roost!

It was further hoped that the GNVQ awards would allow progression to either employment or HE. Again this proved problematic as a number of universities particularly the so-called Russell League Universities were resistant to recognising it as an entry qualification for their degrees. However the newer universities i.e. the former polytechnics and CATs were far more positive towards the GNVQ reflecting their historical roots in technical and vocational education. Programme areas offered included Art and Design, Business Studies, Construction and the Built Environment, Engineering, Hospitality and Catering Information Technology and Manufacturing, Land and Environment, Leisure and Tourism, Media Studies, Performing Arts, Retail and Distribution and Science.

Table 1 shows the number of GNVQ Awards by level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Table 1. Number of GNVQ Awards by Level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 1993/94 and 1997/98.

Level 1993/94 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98
Foundation 2,921 6,152 7,483 7,662
Intermediate 15,587 29,931 44,688 45,996 43,028
Advanced 1,236 11,929 30,921 36,997 41,346

Source: Joint Council for Vocational Awarding Bodies.

The Joint Council for General Qualifications (JCGQ) was established in 1999 and comprised the three Unitary Awarding Bodies namely the AQA – Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, Edexcel – incorporating BTEC and the London Examinations and OCR – the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) together with CCEA the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment and WJEC the Welsh Joint Education Committee. The JCGQ were responsible for overseeing the following range of qualifications: GCSE, ‘A’ levels, GNVQ, Certificate of Achievement, Key Skills and Advanced Extension Awards.

In 2000 the government announced that GNVQs would be replaced gradually by so-called vocational GCSEs and ‘A’ levels and as a result the existence of GNVQs was airbrushed from the history of education. The awarding boards then announced that the last assessments for GNVQ would be in 2005 to 2007. So the hope of establishing parity of esteem between vocational and general/academic qualifications failed again and still waits to be achieved. As long as the supporters of GCE ‘A’ levels are in the driving seat it is unlikely that any future reviews will change the situation. It must be remembered that when GCE ‘A’ levels were introduced in 1951 they were mainly aimed at just 5% of the 16-19 age cohort and also for students in the independent sector and grammar schools. Currently over 30% of the age cohort take ‘A’ levels because of their assumed superiority. Since the 1950s, in spite of a series of supposed reforms to them and coupled with the massive transformations that have occurred in employment and higher education (HE) the basic structure of ‘A’ levels has fundamentally remained the same. Except of course for the recurring concerns expressed when the annual results come out that standards have dropped and that ‘A’ levels were not what they used to be! The greatest supporters of ‘A’ levels are to be found in the independent schools sector and 6th form colleges and these institutions are often highly praised by politicians who seldom extol the strengths of colleges offering technical subjects and examinations. Ofsted is most certainly more comfortable inspecting the academic/general subjects and examinations than the technical and vocational ones.

Personal Observations.

I was very involved with the GNVQs in Science both from a professional view point and personal one. The college I worked at was very committed to the awards and I chaired the National Advisory Committee for the Science Awards. The membership of the advisory committee included key people from the scientific community and education and all were very committed to the success of the award. On a personal note of my sons studied for the Construction and Built Environment qualification and went on to Leeds Metropolitan University to study Architectural Technology and during his studies highlighted the distinct benefits of having taken the GNVQ s as opposed to ‘A’ levels. Again groups of academics created an industry criticising and undermining the GNVQs just as they had done with NVQs and sadly they eventually destroyed what could have become a valuable qualification. It will be interesting to see how they receive the new range of vocational diplomas.


In 1996 the DfEE announced the merger of the NCVQ and SCAA to create a new qualifications and curriculum regulatory agency which initially had the unfortunate acronym QNCA which was subsequently changed to QCA. The roles of QCA included:

  • Oversight of qualifications
  • Quality assurance
  • Responsibility for specifying the form and structure of occupational standards used as the base for NVQs
  • Reviewing the future of the NCVQ levy on Awarding Bodies for accreditation of NVQs.

Provision for 16+ Learners from School with Low Achievements.

The multitude of schemes/programmes developed by the MSC attempted to tackle the problems associated with young people who left school with few or no recognised qualifications at a time of high unemployment. Young people were still leaving school with poor literacy and numeracy skills and struggled to find meaningful employment even if it existed during the 1980/90s. Increasingly employers wanted
people who could communicate and carry out basic numerical tasks as well as having a recognised qualification that would enable them to be effective and competent employees. The MSC tried many initiatives to tackle the problem but largely failed. The 1995 World Competitiveness Report ranked the UK 40th out of 48 countries in terms of motivation and participation in learning, and 7 million employed adults, out of a total workforce of 26 million, having no qualifications. In 1997 the new government announced the Welfare to Work Programme which included the New Deal (ND). New Deal was an attempt to increase sustainable employment and reduce social exclusion. Unemployment was still very high in the 18 to 24 age cohort with some areas of the country experiencing a rate over 26% which represented 250,000 people. Of these 50% did not have an NVQ 2 level qualification or its equivalent. The New Deal was another attempt to solve the problem. The budget announced a massive investment over the first term of the government, something of the order of £3.5 billion. The ND had the following key aims:

  • Develop partnerships across local districts for the planning and delivery of training and work opportunities
  • Extend the opportunities for providing training to private sector through join ventures and private/public consortia
  • Development a new regional focus for negotiating 18-24 and adult strategies
  • Establish a competitive tendering process for contracts
  • Identify the Employment Service district offices, instead of the TECs, as the managers of the contracts
  • Embed the ND within the wider context of social policy reform.

Interestingly to see the increasing involvement of the private sector and the continued shift to central government control and heavy prescription of content and most certainly the operation of the free market. There were a multitude of ND programmes including the following options: subsidised job with an employer; full-time education or training; working in an environmental task force; and work in the voluntary sector. The ND has remained a flag ship of the present government and has undergone a succession of reforms. The ND has had many critics who voiced concerns about its high cost, its cost effectiveness and ultimately its ability to tackle the fundamental problems with these target groups. I will describe the fate of the ND in chapter 16.

What ever the merits of the ND and the earlier attempts to tackle the poor record of achievement of school leavers and young people, especially by the MSC, it is essential that effective programmes are introduced to resolve the problems with the basic skills of communication, numeracy and competence in information technology as well as improving the level of scientific and technological understanding. Unless this worthy intention is realised the country will continue to struggle to compete in the global markets and improve its international competitiveness. It is critical that these programmes for the under achievers are effective and provide outcomes that will benefit the individual, employers, society and educational and training providers. If the flow of better qualified people is available it will greatly improve the situation in general but particularly for the technical, scientific and commercial industries. This must also be coupled with programmes that improve the level of skill and knowledge of the people already in employment through further and higher education and training including programmes of continuous professional development (CPD) that need to be introduced more widely within companies or in association and partnership with colleges and other training providers.

Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs).

As the power and the role of the MSC was reduced in the late 1980s the government decided to create a new model and approach that would establish a management structure of training based on greater involvement from industry and focussed on local needs. The new arrangements would be more employer-led and take responsibility to assess the local labour markets and hence improve labour market intelligence at a local level. The government made a number of announcements along these lines during the early 1990s and eventually the Training and Enterprise Councils were created. Just as in the 1990s the NCVQ was created to reform national vocational and technical qualifications the 1990s witnessed another attempt to reform skills training by creating 82 TECs in England and Wales and 22 Local Enterprise Councils (LECs) in Scotland. In addition to identifying local training and skills needs the Councils were tasked with enterprise development. They had a very wide remit covering such areas as modern apprenticeships, adult retraining and extensive training programmes for unemployed young people. The Councils had the power to negotiate contracts and agree funding of programmes delivered in colleges and private training providers. In addition the TECs became responsible for other aspects of work- based learning including the management of Youth Training (YT) which had replaced YTS. Later the TECs and LECs became responsible for the management of Modern Apprenticeships which had been introduced to revive the now moribund traditional apprenticeship programmes. I will describe more fully the developments of apprenticeships in chapter 16.

The Councils were never really welcomed or accepted and the unions in particular were fairly hostile to their existence because they were excluded from most of the Council’s work. The Council’s funding was based on joint contributions from the private and public purses. Their precise role and relationship with local and national training priorities was unclear and confusing and caused colleges, in particular, a number of fundamental problems. For example tensions existed between the roles of the TECs and the LEAs and colleges often found themselves in the middle of these disputes. Eventually their ineffectiveness led to their replacement by the 47 Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs). The equally ineffective Industrial Training Organisations (ITOs) were replaced by the relatively short lived National Training Organisations (NTOs) and these were then replaced by Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) in 2002. But more of these developments in chapter 16.

The Further Education Funding Council (FEFC.)

Up to 1993 the further education colleges were maintained by Local Education Authorities and as such had no independent legal existence or status unlike the universities. Legally they were indistinguishable from the Local Education Authority. Staff were employees of the Local Authority and the estates and funds they used belonged to the Authority. The college and its governing body acted in all aspects on behalf of the Authority but this was to change following the ‘Further and Higher Education Act’ of 1992. The first stage was enshrined in the 1988/89 legislation which had given colleges considerable independence but still left them within local authority orbit.

The FE sector was fundamentally reformed as a result of the ‘Further and Higher Education Act’ 1992. In all, 465 colleges including sixth-form colleges were incorporated in 1993, removing them from Local Authority control. The role of the LEA was then replaced by the Further Education Funding Councils for England and Wales.(FEFC and FEFCW). This model of a national funding council mirrored the arrangements for the English Polytechnics and Colleges of Higher Education when they were removed from Local Education Authority control in 1989.

When colleges were under the control of the LEAs they were influenced, directed and shaped by their particular LEA’s strategic planning for post-compulsory education/training. The LEA largely formulated the nature and purpose of an institution and its relationship with the local community and especially with schools. As a result of this a wide set of approaches was adopted by LEAs – many colleges were given, particularly following the 1989 Education Act , relatively high degrees of freedom to develop their own purpose and mission whilst others were highly controlled and constrained. Some LEAs were supportive of their colleges whilst others treated them with a fair degree of indifference and even neglect. As a result the resources, estates and in particular funding showed significant variations across the FE sector and its constituent colleges. Some LEAs proscribed certain areas of provision for colleges e.g. adult education and GCE ‘A’ level programmes. This variation of management and treatment created a wide range of institutions across the sector and this coupled with the way colleges developed historically established a very diverse and heterogeneous sector in terms of its student populations, provision and size.

At incorporation FE colleges and Sixth Form Colleges were brought together to form a new FE sector which was funded by the FEFC, the nationally created quango supported by nine regional offices. The FEFC allocated monies to the colleges as well as operating an inspection division. It was established on 17th July 1992 and the Secretary of State for Education set the following statutory duties on the Council to:

  • secure the provision of sufficient facilities for full-time education suitable to the requirements of 16-18 year olds. (This provision had to take into account education for that age group provided by LEA maintained schools, grant-maintained schools, non-maintained schools and City Technology Colleges)
  • secure the provision of adequate facilities for part-time education suitable to the requirements of persons over compulsory school age, and full-time education suitable to the requirements of those aged 19 and over.
  • New Post-16 landscape under FEFC and TECs.

With all these reforms the post-16 education and training sector changed significantly. The diagram below attempts to show the new structure of the education and training landscape.

(FEFCE and 9 Regional Offices)
( LEAs)
(Awarding Bodies)
(Training Standards Council) (Employers) (Industry Lead Bodies)
(Private Training Providers)
(82 TECs/22LECs)
(Schools) (Universities)

The inclusion of sixth-form colleges in the new FE sector brought together institutions with very different traditions and missions. One of the main failures following incorporation was central government and FEFC lack of recognition and awareness of the massive variations across the institutions comprising the new sector e.g. large mixed economy colleges of FE/HE, general colleges of FE, sixth-form colleges, tertiary colleges and the monotechnics (specialist institutions e.g. agriculture, construction and hospitality etc). Many of the problems created by incorporation emanated from this initial and fundamental error in establishing the new sector. The wide variation in institutional mission, curriculum mix e.g. academic/vocational/adult, estates profile and staffing profiles was never fully recognised or managed during this initial and critical period at incorporation. It was the inability to recognise this diversity, heterogeneity and complexity that has caused many of the problems since 1993 particularly for technical education and training.

The Government and the Funding Council adopted an accountancy mentality to the sector wanting a more homogeneous sector and perceived this diversity and complexity as a sign of weakness. They inevitably compared the sector and its constituent colleges with the school and university sectors each of which were much more homogeneous particularly in terms of their student populations and range of awards. One of the reasons for incorporating colleges was to reduce local authority expenditure and ameliorate some of the difficulties associated with the poll tax. The real rationale for creating the new FE sector was based on political and financial grounds as opposed to educational ones. The funding methodology was never really understood by the sector providers e.g. colleges let alone the architects of the system. It was predicated on growth and was frequently referred to rather pointedly as the ‘dash for cash’ or ‘bums on seats’. The really damaging effect of the funding was on low recruiting, high cost provision in such critical areas as science, engineering, construction crafts and technician studies. The senior staff of FEFC visited colleges and advised principals to close or curtail provision in these high cost areas particularly in the technical and practical subjects. Many principals agreed and then replaced these technically orientated subjects with high recruiting low cost, non-technical programmes. As a result many technical departments providing craft, technician and technological training were closed, merged with other departments or provision was significantly reduced. Areas that were particularly affected included brick laying, carpentry and joinery, lead working and plumbing. As a result the capability and capacity for colleges to deliver these important subjects was significantly reduced and in many cases lost forever. This lack of capacity was to be highlighted in recent debates about the shortages of technicians and craftspeople e.g. plumbers, electricians etc. Sector providers were blamed and as usual none of the politicians or senior staff in the quangos and agencies responsible for the problems moved on and upwards unscathed.

The reduction of technical provision in FE was beginning to be mirrored in the university sector as they too began to close or merge departments offering subjects in such strategically important areas as construction, engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences.
In spite of these negatives a number of advantages did result from incorporation because of colleges’ greater independence which in theory did provide them with new opportunities to exploit and capitalise on their past achievements. Colleges could formulate, implement and direct their strategic plans and more precisely locate themselves in the post compulsory school landscape for education and training. Additional degrees of freedom were given to colleges in order to respond more effectively and efficiently to such factors as the changing needs and demands from employers and society in general and to various government initiatives. All these factors and others had to be accommodated within the rapidly evolving framework of rigid control and accountability developed by the DfEE and FEFC and other sponsors particularly the Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs). Overall the colleges accepted the creation of a quasi- national system funded centrally by the FEFC and the requirement to improve efficiency and the need to be more transparent and accountable. This latter point was important bearing in mind that the funding allocated by the FEFC came from public monies.

Incorporation had brought about a significant growth in student numbers but not in the technical and vocational programmes. In spite of increasingly centrally driven funding and inspection regimes the FE sector still lacked a coherent and unified national system of technical and vocational education. Provision was still characterised by insensitive funding mechanisms that created a multitude of often competing organisations and agencies attempting to influence provision. During this period competition was encouraged by the FEFC and the TECs between the various players i.e. colleges, schools and training providers and again this damaged the technical subjects. This quasi independence caused many difficulties including wide spread use of low quality franchising and malpractice in counting student numbers in order to maximise revenue. The FEFC created all sorts of lasting problems for the FE sector particularly associated with funding and when it was replaced by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) one hoped the situation would improve. However in many ways the constraints and controls increased.

Qualifications in the 1990s.

During the 1990s the qualifications were classified in terms of NVQs, general vocational and general education which led to awards such as NVQs, GNVQs and GCSE/GCE ‘A’ levels. The categories of qualifications were denoted by level and there were opportunities for students to mix and match awards according to their career, employment and FE/HE study intentions. Many colleges were very creative in configuring innovative and relevant provision that matched more effectively the needs of employers. Figure 1 attempts to illustrate the qualifications available to 16 to 19 year olds.

Figure 1. Qualifications Available to 16 to 19 Year Olds.

Level Occupational Training General Vocational Education General Education
3 NVQ 3 (Training for Advanced Craft, Technician, Supervisor Jobs#) Advanced GNVQs 2+ GCE ‘A’ levels or equivalent ‘AS’ levels
2 NVQ 2(Training for Basic Craft Jobs) Intermediate GNVQs 4 or 5 GCSEs
A* to C grades
1 NVQ 1 (Foundation Training) Foundation GNVQs 4 GCSEs D to G grades

Key: # available through Modern Apprenticeships.

In 1995 39% of 16 year olds in education and training attended school 6th forms. Also in 1995 14% of 16 year olds chose work-based training many of whom were based with employers. Staying on rates increased from 66% in 1990 to 75% in 1995. 43% of 16 year olds studied in FE college and 6th form colleges. Many of the young people preferred the greater freedom that colleges provided and the more adult culture when compared with schools. This pattern had begun earlier when many students left secondary modern schools and also when the school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 in the early 1970s. This will no doubt become a major issue again following the recent government announcement to raise the leaving age to 18. Over the past few decades young people have become increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the school culture and the narrow range of the provision personified by the National Curriculum. I fear that in spite of all the current reforms e.g. the introduction of vocational diplomas and more relevant provision, the sense of alienation among students who are encouraged to stay on at school will continue. The qualifications and experience of technical and vocational subjects by school staff and the facilities offered in schools cannot compare with those found in colleges and training providers. It seems that a schools agenda is increasingly being introduced on the post-16 education and training stage. By the mid-1990s the student population of all ages in FE stood at approximately 3 million.

The following tables show in more detail the overall participation in the education and training system in 1992/93, 1994/95 and 1996/97. I apologise for the amount of detail but they do illustrate a number of interesting trends and provide an over view of the state of participation rates in England for 16 to 18 year olds. Table 2 only shows participation in schools and FE colleges and excludes enrolments in private FE institutions, adult education centres, WEA programmes and residential colleges.

Table 2. Percentage Participation Rates in Schools and FE Colleges in 1992/3, 1994/5 and 19996/7.

Type of Institution 1992/3 1994/5 1996/7
Age 16:
Full-Time and Sandwich
6th Form Colleges
Other FE Colleges
Part-Time FE:
Total age at 16: 77.9 79.1 77.5
Age 17:
Full-Time and Sandwich:
6th Form Colleges:
Other FE Colleges:
Part-Time FE:
Total age at 17: 64.7 67.5 66.7
Age 18:
Full-Time and Sandwich:
6th Form Colleges:
Other FE Colleges:
Part-Time FE:
Total age at 18: 28.5 28.8 28.5

Source: DfEE Education Statistics.

Key: * 6th Form Colleges included in FE figures after 1992/93.

Table 3 shows the % participation rates in England in training and higher education with a similar format shown in figure 2.

Table 3. Percentage Participation Rates in Training and HE in 1992/93, 1994/5 and 1996/97.

Type of Institution 1992/93 1994/95 1996/7
Age 16:
F-T Education:
Government –
Supported Training (GST):
Employer-Funded Training:
Other Education and Training:
Total Education and Training:
Education and Training (GST)*:
Population (000s): 553.9 549.7 618.0
Age 17:
F-T Education GST:
Employer-Funded Training:
Other Education and Training:
Total Education and Training:
GST* 70.2 71.4 69.5
Population (000s): 576.1 536.6 601.1
Age 18:
F-T Education:
Employer-Funded Training:
Other Education and Training:
Total Education and Training:
 GST* 49.1 53.0  53.9
Population (000s): 603.9 556.7 553.6

Table 4 shows the student and staff numbers in FE Institutions in England in 1992/93.

Table 4. Student and Staff Numbers in FE in 1992.

Type of Institution 1992/93
Students (000s FTEs)
LEA-Maintained and PCFC Colleges:
6th Form Colleges:
Adult education Centres:
WEA Establishments:
Totals: 995
FEFC-Funded Courses:
Non-FEFC –Funded Courses:
Totals: 1,110
Teaching Staff (000s of FTEs):
LEA-Maintained Colleges:
PCFC Institutions:
Sector Colleges and HEI (FE courses)*:

Note the figures have been rounded up.
Key: * Figures include HE delivered in FE colleges and some recognised professional courses. HEFC assumed ultimate responsibility for funding HE courses in FE colleges.

Industry lead bodies – an update

Full employment in the 1960s and early 1970s meant that industrial training was the responsibility of the 25 or so ITBs which were based on industrial sectors. Later on in the 1970s and early 1980s growing high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, raised questions about the effectiveness of ITBs and this contributed to the MSC becoming the major player in national training programmes. The majority of the ITBs were abolished and replaced by Industrial Training Organisations (ITOs) which were more industry specific. In addition there were a number of Lead Bodies (LBs) and Occupational Standards Councils and like ITOs all under – funded and as unemployment fell in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s their effectiveness was questioned which brought about yet another reform in 1995. The 180 ITOs, LBs and OSCs were brought together to create National Training Organisations (NTOs) and the reformed National Council of Industrial Training Organisations was replaced by the NTO Council. National Training Organisations (NTOs) were in essence mergers of Industrial Training Organisations (ITOs), Lead Bodies (LBs) and Occupational Standards Councils (OSCs) coordinated by the NTO National Council.

National Training Organisations (NTOs) were established in 1997 and 65 NTOs had been recognised by 1997. NTOs existed, like their predecessors, to provide strategic leadership and advice on education and training for the employment sector. Other responsibilities included addressing skills needs and shortages, promoting vocational technical qualifications. Scotland had a similar organisation namely SCONTO. As a result their remit was wider than previous lead bodies and their roles included:

  • To develop strategies at national level for their sectors and occupational groups to complement local TECs and LECs
  • Deliver an integrated approach to identifying the skills, competences and qualifications needed for a world class work-force
  • Identify and co-ordinate the provision of training and education used by employers
  • Establish links with educational establishments and the Careers Service to develop progression routes into employment and vocational qualifications
  • Review and update occupational standards and NVQs/SVQs, emphasising quality and user-friendliness
  • Drive forward the take-up of occupational standards and N/SVQs to meet national and sector targets
  • Promote the wider use of occupational standards
  • Develop and improve Modern Apprenticeships and provide guidance on national Traineeships
  • Act on White Paper initiatives and challenges such as sector targets, benchmarking, lifelong learning and Investors in People
  • Exert a strong influence on partners, policy makers and employers to raise the profile of training in general.

A massive remit that proved too much for the NTOs and the NTO National Council to realise particularly the requirement to work across such a large number of other organisations many with vested interests. In addition funding presented problems right from the beginning of the NTO movement as employers were reluctant to contribute bearing in mind the poor track record of industry lead bodies.

So NTOs did not readily gain the confidence, support and recognition of the employers and before they even began to have any influence were wound up and replaced by the latest employer network namely the Skill Sector Councils (SSCs) in 2002.

Other Initiatives.

The DfEE 1998 publication ‘Learning Age – a renaissance for a new Britain’ proposed two interrelated policy frameworks for adult technical training: the University for Industry (UfI) and Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs). Both of these hastily introduced initiatives failed to achieve their ambitious objectives. UfI was a misnomer because it was not a university and could never achieve that status and most certainly, as it turned out, had little to do with industry. It currently offers a range of relatively low level programmes (at level 2) in IT and key skills. ILAs were eventually wound up after accusations of fraud and malpractice. However the Labour government is wedded to the concept of ILAs and has now proposed in the 2006 White Paper ‘FE Reform: Raising Skills. Improving Life Chance’ a variation called Individual Learning Grants (ILGs)! These are but two examples of New Labour’s plethora of policy statements and initiatives that have created little improvement in any aspect of education and most certainly not in technical education and training. The list below illustrates a number of relevant initiatives during the 1990s:

Other Important Reports and Developments in the 1990s.

  • In 1990 Training Credits piloted. YTS renamed Youth Training (YT)
  • In 1990 ‘ British Baccalaureate’ published by IPPR and in spite of authors being Labour supporters never implemented even after the party came to power in 1997
  • In 1991 CPVE replaced by the Diploma of Vocational Education (DVE)
  • In 1991‘Higher Education’ published and recommended expansion of HE student numbers
  • In 1992 Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) and the Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFC) established
  • In 1992 ‘FE and HE Act’ published resulting in polytechnics designated universities; CNNA abolished; FE colleges and sixth form colleges removed from LEA control
  • In 1994 Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) piloted and introduced in 1995; also accelerated MAs announced set at NVQ level 2
  • In 1995 Youth Credits introduced. Youth Training name dropped
  • In 1995 Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) created following merger of Employment Department and Department for Education
  • In 1995 ‘Competitiveness: Forging Ahead’ published by DTI; it attempted to forge stronger links between education and employment
  • In 1996 Dearing Report – review of 16 to 19 vocational qualification; GNVQs introduced
  • In 1996 Review of 100 NVQs and SVQs
  • In 1997 Dearing Review of HE
  • In 1997 National Traineeships introduced replacing YT; aimed at NVQ level 2
  • In 1997 New Deal (ND) launched; it consisted of a number of programmes for young and older people which were aimed at increasing sustainable employment. The ND replaced YTS
  • In 1997 Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) replaced SCAA and NCVQ
  • In 1998 University for Industry (Ufi) prospectus published
  • In 1998 Union Learning Fund established.
  • In 1998 National and Local Learning Skills Councils replace TECs, LECs and the National TEC Council
  • In 1998 ‘The Learning Age – a renaissance for a new Britain’ published; one of the many glossy publications from new Labour. This one was about lifelong learning.
  • In 1999 Modern Apprenticeships expanded to 82,000 places. Investors in Young People renamed Connexions
  • In 1999 Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) piloted to increase post-16 take-up
  • 1n 1999 ‘Improving literacy and Numeracy’ published (Moser Report)

Chapter 16 will describe the developments in the late 1990s and begin to describe the developments in the early 2000s.

A comprehensive book list is provided in a separate section of this website whilst other primary resource references have been given at the end 0f the chapter where appropriate.

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

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