Short History of Apprenticeships

Definition of an apprenticeship:
One bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specific amount of time in return for instruction in a trade, art or business.
Apprenticeships in Britain started back in the Middle Ages and were closely related to the mediaeval craft guilds. In 1563 the Statute of Artificers created a more regulated and prescribed system by setting out more precise conditions and terms. These included the duration of the apprenticeship and very importantly the relationship between the master and apprentice. Also it limited the master to a maximum of three apprentices. Surprisingly apprenticeships were not necessarily voluntary and in some cases there were instances of compulsion. Basically apprenticeships evolved by way of a contractual agreement between the master and apprentice initially in a few trades. The regulation was through indentures that were legally binding documents. Indentures were written and agreed, binding the servant and master and in which the master took responsibility for the apprentice’s training and welfare and provided him with accommodation. Also there were conditions about how the apprentice should behave outside his workplace and these conditions were stated explicitly in the indenture.  Note at this time all apprentices were male.
Apprenticeships lasted for 2 to 7 years’ depending on the particular trade after which the apprentice became a journey man. The term derived from the French word for day i.e. ‘journee’ and basically meant that the journeyman would be paid by the day for his work. After a period of extensive experience the journeyman could submit a piece of his best work to the appropriate guild for assessment and approval. If this ‘master piece’ was accepted he could become a master craftsman and set up his own workshop and train apprentices.
The following two centuries witnessed a significant expansion in apprenticeships accompanied by gradually improved legislation on working conditions including those in the workplace environment. However eventually the general popularity of apprenticeships declined owing to the exploitation of young apprentices and the awful conditions in many factories. In 1802 the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act laid down additional conditions including a 12- hour working day and a requirement that a factory apprentice should be taught arithmetic, reading and writing. In 1814 following the 1802 Act the 1563 Statute was dissolved, the new regulations weakened the statutory controls e.g. practicing a trade by not being apprenticed was legal and removed the requirement for a minimum of seven year apprenticeships. Apprenticeships remained relatively popular with many occupations that involved practical skills and with a number of the professions. Towards to end of the 19th century approximately 340,000 apprentices were involved each year in preparing to enter building, engineering, shipbuilding and woodworking occupations.
Participation in apprenticeships reached its zenith in the years following 1945 and reflected a strong relationship between the community, employers and the apprentice. The apprenticeships were at this time still subjected to a time served contract and were in the main determined, to varying degrees by the trade unions, employers, and a number of guilds and employers’ associations. Interestingly the State played little role either by support or intervention – that was to come later.
As already mentioned the programmes continued to survive through the early 20th century and by the mid-1960s around 33% of male school leavers aged 15-17 entered some form of apprenticeship programme. However after the 1960s the numbers engaged in apprenticeships declined significantly across most occupational areas as various industries themselves declined. Surveys showed that the number of apprenticeships in employment decreased from 370,000 in 1979 to 180,000 in 1995 (1). Although there were approximately 171,000 apprentices in 1968 they had declined to approximately 34,500 in 1990. A few sectors continued to recruit apprentices including catering, construction and engineering but the numbers were much reduced from previous decades,
In the 1960s politicians, policy makers and employers began to question the effectiveness of the existing model/framework for apprenticeships and highlighted a number of key concerns including:
·         They had not kept pace with the ever accelerating pace of industrial, technological and scientific advances of the time
·         The time served aspect was redundant, not focused on outcomes and did not recognise fully how people acquired skills at different rates
·         Too often the important issue of standards were overlooked because of the time served approach.
·         Also a number of politicians were against the continuing involvement and influence of the trade unions and political dogma became more apparent especially during the Thatcher years.
·         Women seemed to be excluded from training in many industries as data shows that the programme participants were exclusively male.
After 1960 as the history of technical education has shown a large number of initiatives were introduced to address some of the weaknesses in the apprenticeship model/framework. These included the creation of the Industrial Training Boards (ITBs). The Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) and numerous MSC initiatives including Youth Training (YT) and the Technical and Education Initiative (TVEI). These and other schemes ultimately failed to address yet alone resolve many of the long standing problems  besetting Britain’s technical and vocation training and vocational system and ability to create a well qualified and up to date workforce. The majority of these initiatives catered for the young unemployed who would have been eligible for the old style apprentice unfortunately much of the new provision was of poor quality and further contributed to the already low standing and esteem of technical and vocational training. These initiatives were more about social engineering, cheap labour and massaging/fixing the unemployment statistics for political advantage. Finally the rapid decline in traditional apprenticeships could be mapped to the following factors:
·         The massive decline in the manufacturing base in Britain from the mid-1970s
·         Weakened trade unions
·         Disappearance of key employment legislation and the weakening of contractual agreements coupled with lack of funding for apprenticeship programmes
·         Falling demand for the products and services produced by the apprenticeship trades
·         Successive raising of the school leaving age and the subsequent increase in post-16 participation in schools and colleges
·         The impact of other programmes such as Youth Training Scheme, Youth Training
From the mid 1990s successive governments paid some attention to apprenticeships and attempted to reconfigure the programmes by prescribing more precisely the delivery, funding and inspection systems. It is interesting to map the degree of state intervention in apprenticeships to that in technical and commercial education and training. From the traditional model in the Middle Ages of master and apprentice relationship, to the levy-funded programmes of the Industrial Training Boards in the 1960s/70s and then in the early 1990s, non-existent support or state intervention. Since the early 1990s successive governments have introduced a number of reforms with a multitude of titles and operating rationales e.g., Modern, Accelerated, Advanced, Foundation, Graduate etc.  For example Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) were introduced in 1994 for 16 to 24 year olds in 14 industrial sectors and then later expanded to cover 80 different occupational areas. The programmes were offered at two levels namely level 2 (NVQ 2 and called Foundation MA) and level 3 (NVQ 3 with key skills and called Advanced MA). To add value to the awards the Technical Certificates were introduced in 2001/2. Technical certificates could include existing qualifications e.g. CGLI, Edexcel or a newly created qualification to satisfy the requirements of a specific occupational sector. The technical certificate provides the underpinning knowledge and understanding for the appropriate NVQ (remember one of the criticisms of NVQs was that they lacked the necessary underpinning knowledge and understanding).  Following these numerous reviews and reforms and increased investment numbers doubled from 1997 to 2009 from approximately 75,000 to around 180,000 and at present more ambitious targets have been set to further increase participation in the programmes. Completion rates too have improved e.g. In 2001  only 24% finished the full programme whilst in 2009 63% completed – although questions still remain about the quality of the programmes. The current government will no doubt further reform the apprenticeship model/framework hopefully to offer higher quality programmes for the large number of unemployed young people, a figure which in December 2010 stands at over 950,000. If properly managed and supported by government and employers apprenticeships could provide a valuable set of opportunities during the current recession and produce a more qualified workforce for the future beginning to address the continuing low skill equilibrium in the country. It is essential that employers play the leading role in their development, implementation and monitoring  and that the programmes are viewed and promoted as possessing an equal value to other education and training programmes e.g. GCSEs, GCE ‘A ‘Levels, other NVQS i.e. they are fully recognised as having parity of esteem with all other awards/qualifications.
Apprenticeships do have a major role to play in education and training because In spite of the catalogue of concerns cited above the apprenticeship model/framework has always possessed a number of positive and distinct characteristics that add value to the technical and vocational education and training experience namely:
·         The programmes are largely work based and as a result provide direct and real experience of the workplace
·         There is a strong working relationship between the employer and the apprentice that should allow individual companies an opportunity to shape and manage the training programme to their own needs
·         Apprentices can attend college for additional studies (off-job) which complement and reinforce their work placed training (on-job training)
·          Apprentices are paid whilst they are learning.
An Additional Observation on numeracy and mathematics
An historical aside is that most advanced mathematics teaching during the Middle Ages was done by the trade guilds through apprentice programmes. For some in trades like architecture, building, mercantile and other commercial enterprises, topics such as arithmetic and geometry were taught in the workplace.
(1)    Labour Force Survey. Various 1990s/2000s
‘World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England’ DIUS. 2007
‘Recruitment to Skilled Trades’ G. Williams.RKP.1957.
Wilson.C. ‘England’s Apprenticeship 1603-1763’. Longmans. 1965.
See also the History of Technical Education and the pen portrait on Livery Companies and Guilds on this website.

Manufacturing a terminal case?

A new government so as a result new ideas and new initiatives abound about education and training. As with previous administrations they have highlighted the woeful state of manufacturing in this country and proclaimed that it needs to be regenerated (whatever that means?) This state of affairs is by no means new – it’s been occurring over many decades with successive administrations.
Manufacturing industry has never really seriously figured on any political agenda in this country and when it was the interest has been tokenistic, half hearted and lack lustre. Manufacturing has been declining as a proportion of GDP in most advanced industrialised nations over the past 30 years but it has been declining at a higher rate in this country. In fact between 1995 and 2000 the rate of decline in this country was twice the average for the other G7 countries. For example for the month of June 2002 manufacturing output fell by 5.3%, the largest decline since 1979. This picture reflects the political indifference and inaction shown towards manufacturing by successive British governments and their obsession with banking, financial and service industries. Whilst these favoured areas grew, traditional manufacturing rapidly declined.
 An interesting figure which reflects the highly distorted nature of this country’s economy is that the tax take from financial services represents 12.5% of the total amount raised by the revenue office. The government has to protect this area of employment at all costs, especially the City – hence their reluctance to introduce stronger regulation of the banking and financial services for fear they might move and base their business in other countries. The level of British economy dependency on these businesses is totally disproportionate whilst other countries have maintained a manufacturing base e.g. Germany and many of the Scandinavian nations. Some political leaders especially in Britain and France have argued that this process was inevitable as the tide of globalisation was irreversible -other nations accepted this fact but took positive action to develop their manufacturing industries.
As mentioned above the decline of traditional heavy industries was largely inevitable as demand patterns changed and this country failed to compete with the emerging economies of East Asia and/or other countries who had invested in new plant, research and development. Additionally their governments adopted a long term strategy for manufacturing and macro-economics that recognised the importance of a realistic balance between services based industries and manufacturing. One of the long standing problems was Britain’s inability to develop and sustain high volume production. In spite of warnings the manufacturing base collapsed during the 80s and 90s. The symptoms had been clear to everyone – the outcome of an assumption that the country could survive on service-based industries, invisible earnings and massive pockets of regional unemployment and underemployment.
Other signs of these transformations in the workforce were evidenced by the decline in student numbers and apprenticeships in colleges and other training providers offering craft, technician and technologist provision. As mentioned in the history of technical education on this website departments in colleges and universities downsized, closed or merged with other departments. The funding methodology rewarded low cost and high recruiting provision and this directly contributed to the imbalances in the skill base and the workforce profile in the country. As a result the situation in colleges, training providers and universities came to reflect the overall position nationally of manufacturing namely one of invisibility, low priority and lack of any real investment, resource or support. This was coupled this with the continuing negative perception of manufacturing and engineering among parents and other relatives who may have experienced being made redundant from manufacturing industries and they became resistant to their children entering that world of employment, so contributing to the downward spiral in recruitment.
Even with the emerging newer technologies this hostility and consequent suspicion of the more practical and vocational areas of employment continued. Successive governments have attempted to encourage increased participation in engineering/technology/built environment technologies but all failed to appreciate the fundamental and underlying causes of the problems. In spite of frequent statements about the paucity of mathematics/ physical science/engineering students at all stages of education and training no effective long term strategies were introduced. Initiatives abounded but these were never properly resourced, evaluated or implemented with real commitment and the continued reality of the current skills shortages has become even more manifest.
So the politicians and their commission for skills et al inform us of the problems and possible impending crises associated with skills gaps and shortages when they themselves have created many of the problems. They have dismissed the importance of manufacturing and placed an over emphasis and faith in the financial services and the emerging knowledge based industries. The problem with these approaches is that they are fundamentally flawed. The mathematical reality of an economy based on the financial and service industries is now largely discredited. The current recession is testimony to the fragility of this assumption and the consequences will resonate as a result of the current financial crisis for years to come! A culture of witch craft and financial terrorism as practised by the bankers and other financial sectors cannot be a basis for stability. Assuming there is any real political will this country must completely and fundamentally review reform and rebalance its long term strategy toward wealth generation by establishing an effective and efficient manufacturing sector providing products and services that the rest of the world want to buy and which complements the service industries. This government like previous ones constantly proclaims the importance of the information and knowledge society inventing a whole series of meaningless and vacuous e-expressions such as e-government, e-commerce, e-democracy, e-learning, and the previous government even appointed an e-envoy! – the only one not used is e-by-gum!
So can this country regenerate a manufacturing base, which is appropriate for the 21st century and which will compete within the global economy? Before one attempts to answer this vital question a number of key factors need to be considered. Clearly it must be accepted that many services and manufactured products will be made abroad in developing countries where labour costs at present are much lower.   The movement of companies, whether domestic or overseas owned, reflects this fact of globalisation including Black and Decker, Dyson, Doc Martin, Massey Ferguson and Raleigh cycles.  Also many companies outsourced their call centres abroad after an initial hope, by previous governments, that the UK would become a world centre of excellence for this area of employment e.g. British Airways, General Electric and Zurich Insurance. These movements reflect/parallel, albeit on a more rapid scale, what happened to the traditional manufacturing industries. In addition the significant level of outsourcing manufacturing abroad coupled with the massive number of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) by foreign companies since the 1980s has significantly weakened the manufacturing and commercial foundations of the UK.  Other factors that complicate the issue are the fluctuating exchange rate, the reluctance to strengthen the regulation of the financial services, our massive dependency and love affair with the USA and its financial systems and the related negative and ambivalent attitude to the EC and the Euro – after all the EC is our largest export market! Inward investment is also declining after boom years in the 1980s and 90s and recent evidence has shown that the country’s share relative to mainland Europe has declined from 26% to 18% in the early 2000s. Finally the continuing low levels of productivity in this country compared with other countries adds to the inevitable and continued decline. The annual surveys on productivity levels from McKinsey and other organisations show the country still lagging behind most of our competitors e.g. France 32%, Germany 29% and US 55%. These threat elements whether real or imagined do not instil confidence in any lasting renaissance of manufacturing or the rebuilding of an effective education and training system in these important areas especially in the current period of austerity.
So what is the current government doing to maintain and enhance the manufacturing base in this country? At present very little. The planned austerity measures are bringing about massive cuts to the budgets across all stages of the education and training system. This is a very short sighted approach but it always seems to happen during recessions Governments reduce funding for training and sadly companies also reduce their commitment and funding to training at times of austerity. Every time the press publish information on manufacturing output ministers and civil servants respond by engaging in semantic gymnastics arguing that manufacturing has been redefined and that really no problems exist if one accepts these new definitions. Clearly the nature of manufacturing will change as new industries and technologies appear but there must be a precise understanding within the definitions of what constitutes manufacturing. This country extols its excellence in the arts, fashion, computer games and media but overall even these receive little support and again are going to experience massive cuts in their funding. This is the reason why an effective system of labour market research and intelligence, national and international, is essential and which is able to identify and track how the global market is changing.
In spite of some excellent reports from the EEF and the occasional broadsides from the CBI the Trade Unions and the Chambers of Commerce little seems to happen. The usual knee jerk reaction is to establish working parties, commissions, focus groups, skill summits populated with people who lack any real experience and knowledge of the issues but who tell the government what they want to hear. Inevitably they revisit and discuss ad nauseam the same issues highlighted over many years.
The Way Ahead- (It’s All Been Said Before):
·         Develop a comprehensive and up to date Labour Market Intelligence/Research system/network that pays particular attention to current and possible future global markets and their transformations
·         Redefine what currently and in the future constitutes British manufacturing and how it relates to the global market
·         Once the definitions are agreed develop a long-term strategy which recognises its relationship, realities and consequences within the global economy
·         Long term strategies must be developed to improve the low levels of productivity
·         Long term strategies must be developed to tackle skills gaps and shortages
·         The increasing burden of regulation and direct and indirect taxation on companies must be halted and reversed with real incentives to encourage creativity and innovation
·         Create a clear strategy for developing a sensible balance between the services and manufacturing industries that are seen to complement each other and realise a synergistic relationship
·         Tax incentives should be considered to help particularly Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to encourage employers to invest in retraining and CPD programmes to improve skill levels among their employees
·         Increased funding for technical, vocational and training programmes in all sectors of the educational system and a fundamental review, reform and expansion of apprenticeships/internships.
·         A commitment to improving the number of people possessing the higher levels of skills that aligns to the prioritised manufacturing industries i.e. > 2/3 both in employment and those in education and training.
·         A comprehensive, coherent and consistent set of strategies developed for post-16 education and training which once and for all resolves the issues associated with parity of esteem between the so-called academic and vocational programmes.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 2010 survey involving more than 1000 human resources directors identified that 53% of the respondents expressed concern about the difficulty in recruiting the right people and rated that the continuing skills gaps/shortages were the greatest challenge confronting this country in 2011. In addition 34% HR directors expressed concern about global mobility, (presumably that fewer qualified people would come to this country and more workers would move abroad?) and 23% about the country’s regulation and employment legislation. The survey continued that the UK has lost its position as the world’s most educated workforce, (was this ever true- where did this belief come from – a bit of historical arrogance?), and this would limit future growth of the UK economy.

 Final comment:

The British chancellor Gorge Osborne has come up with the somewhat vacuous expression ‘march of the makers’ which I presume is meant to be a clarion call for British manufacturing. Sadly its just another example of empty rhetoric and political speak and opportunism.

Functional Subjects Particularly Mathematics

 ‘Experience plus reflection equals learning.’ John Dewey
This is a powerful and apposite quotation by John Dewey which resonates with many of the issues that arise when one is considering how to make the technical and vocational curriculum in schools and colleges more relevant and meaningful. Recently the term functionality has been introduced into educational and training jargon. In curriculum development functionality is equally as important as context to which it is closely linked especially in the teaching and learning of practical, vocational and technical subjects. The curriculum developers 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 – all a bit general.  As the skills agenda becomes more important across the world many countries are now focusing on the need to review and reform school and post-school curricula in order to make them more relevant and meaningful for people entering the world of work.  Employers in particular want to see a more vocationally and technically focused curriculum in schools and colleges that more effectively prepares people for employment. In this country functional skills and the associated qualifications are aimed at providing learners with practical skills in English, Information Technology (ICT) and Mathematics.
The government argues that the functional skills qualifications will be useful for: ‘ learners: will develop solving skills which will make sure that they’re well prepared for employment, further study and life in general, employers: help employees apply vital functional skills in work situations which will improve effectiveness and productivity, HE: competency in the key subjects of English, ICT and mathematics will help learners progress to further achievement and allow them to study independently.’ (All very worthy but as always the devil will be in the detail and the implementation!). The government, as also its predecessor, has created a strategy to address employability needs for the country in order to begin to address the woeful state of people’s skills. The OECD survey (2009) paints a bleak picture of this country’s performance when compared with 30 advanced industrial nations e.g. 17th for basic skills (Functional literacy, ICT and mathematics) 20th for intermediate skills (Technical and craft skills, for example, in advanced apprenticeships) and 11th in higher (Degree and post graduate programmes). The latest study from OECD in 2010, (known as the PISA survey (Programme for International Student Assessment), showed Britain slipping further down the international education league tables The country was ranked 25th for reading, 28th for mathematics and 16th for science. The study involved 470,000 15 year olds and the corresponding numbers for 2006 were 17th, 24th and 14th respectively. These figures sadly reflect and reinforce the decline in the effectiveness of the English educational and training system and align with the situation given in the history of technical education on this website. The country is now in absolute decline after years of relative decline in international league tables!
 I will focus on functional mathematics for this article as the subject is central to technical and commercial education and training as it is aimed at improving the understanding and appreciation of the application of mathematics and numerical concepts in the workplace. Any curriculum experience must surely begin to build the foundations that are able to tackle the continuing  problems associated with technical and technician education and training that will once and for produce a more qualified and skilled  workforce for the future.
As always such initiatives become politicised and embroiled in the old arguments about the academic vocational divide and pure versus applied subjects and the issue of achieving parity of esteem. The genesis of the term is itself interesting: some commentators say a key advisor in the previous government thought of it and qualified it by saying ‘no other country has used the term.’ – that really is a good rationale for any development – such is the paucity of intellect in the political classes?! The term has in fact been around for some time and its development and use well documented particularly in Europe. Since the appearance of the term functional mathematics in 2006/07 a flurry of activity has been focused on trying to define it, where to locate it in the curriculum, and whether it should be for all learners or just a particular group of learners. It’s a classic case example of the English education system – a multitude of individuals, professional organisations and working groups beavering away without any real understanding of what is really required. Couple this with frequent government interference, with their advisors putting forward their own narrow and ill-informed opinions, and you have a recipe for disaster. As a result of all this activity on a critical and important development, a bandwagon has been created with a great deal of momentum but little idea where it is going and, equally important, what it will do if it arrives somewhere! I fear the change of government will not improve the situation if one looks at what is already happening about to the development of the so-called vocational diplomas and their relative value to the so-called academic subjects e.g. GCE ‘A’ levels.
The major challenge with the introduction of functional mathematics 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. As a result an important element in functional mathematics concerns how it can be learnt. Effective and sustained learning will not be achieved through simulation or a pre-occupation with testing and assessment. It is essential that the appropriate contexts for the learning are carefully defined and managed (see article on context on this website). Functional mathematics must have universal application and available to all learners including undergraduate and post-graduate students. Learners must gain an understanding of ‘functionality’ both in terms of the ‘how’ and of the ‘why’. Functional mathematics must involve such elements as reflection, critical thought, reasoning, and problem solving. Process and thinking skills must be at the heart of this development. It must not be driven by heavily prescribed assessment regimes and must be relevant and delivered in realistic contexts and most certainly not be hi- jacked by the academics and pure mathematicians who have little understanding of technical and commercial environments.
The final challenge facing the introduction of an effective programme of functional mathematics will be those associated with the teacher’s ability to deliver the subject and the availability of the right resources and support for them. In order to introduce new curricula teachers have to fundamentally review and reflect on their teaching styles and practices. Such analysis must include the reasons for what is taught, what you can use it for, why it is taught and how you can apply it. Any curriculum experience is not just about the syllabus and how it is interpreted but is also about the learning and teaching styles adopted in the appropriate contexts, whilst maximising the available resources to facilitate effective learning. The most important resources are the teachers and they will need a great deal of support in order to introduce the subject. Sadly the shortage of sufficiently qualified mathematics teachers in schools and colleges coupled with the fact that many do not possess any real experience of teaching to the specifications that will define and figure in functional mathematics will create a massive set of challenges. Capability in handling mathematical concepts and their application in realistic contexts cannot be over emphasised as someone who has taught technical subjects I realise the centrality of the subject in this sector of education and training.
Final quote for curriculum developers: 
Any judgement on the value of any curriculum experience is its functionality – namely the outcomes achieved.’

List of Dissenting Academies

Dissenting academies played an important part and made a major contribution to the development of the English educational system from the mid-17th to the 19th centuries. The academies were colleges, seminaries and schools run by religious dissenters. Non-practising members of the Church of England people/religious dissenters were barred from gaining access to the then existing universities. As a result many people went abroad to study or attended Scottish University’s. Below I list the dissenting academies in England and Wales with approximate dates of their foundation and locations. The list is not complete but will hopefully convey the scale and scope of these fascinating institutions. The students who attended the academies represented such religions as Jews, Nonconformist Protestants, Quakers and Roman Catholics. (I guess that the title of academy came from Plato’s school of philosophy and his subsequent influence on philosophical thought stressing the importance of being sceptical).
Academies primary purpose was to provide higher education during the 19th century but ultimately the long overdue reforms by Oxford and Cambridge were introduced and more importantly the founding of London University and the university colleges/provincial universities gradually removed their need and purpose. However they represent an important and influential movement in the development of education in England and Wales and their importance should not be underestimated.
Academy/Location/Date of approximate founding:
Abergavenny/Wales/1757. Alcester/Midlands/foundation unknown closed 1720. Attercliffe/North/1691. Bedworth/Midlands/1690. Bishop’s Hall Academy, Bethnal Green/London/1680. Bristol/South West/1720. Bolton/North/1723. Bridgenorth/Midlands/1726.Bridgewater/South West/foundation unknown closed 1747.  Broad Oak/Wales/1690. Bromsgrove (or Stourbridge) /Midlands/1665. Brynllywarch near Bridgend/Wales/1757. Carmarthen/Wales/1700.  Cheshunt, Higham Hill/Walthamstow/1790. Coventry/Midlands/1663. Dartmouth/South West/1668. Exeter (a number of academies had the same name/South West/1760.  Findern (afterwards at Derby)/Midlands/foundation unknown closed 1754. Gloucester/South/1696. Gosport/South/1789.  Heckmondwyke (merged with Rotherham College)/North/1756. Hoxton Square/ London moved from Coventry/1700. Hungerford/South/1696.  Idle (became Airedale Independent College in 1826)/1800. Ipswich/Suffolk/1698.  Islington (a number of institutions under the same name established (x2)/London/1672.  Kendal/Lakedistrict/1733. Knill/Wales/1675. Lincoln/Midlands/1668. Lyme Regis (moved to Shepton Mallett and then Poole)/South West/1690. Manchester/North/1698.  Market Harborough (moved to Mile End, London)/Midlands/1758. Mill Hill/London/foundation unknown closed 1701. Nettlebed/Oxfordshire/1666. New College/ Hackney, London/1786. Newington Green (a number of institutions under the same name established(x3))/ London/ 1667. Newport Pagnell, (later merged with Cheshunt)/Midlands/1783. Northampton/Midlands/1715.  Nottingham/Midlands/1680. Ottery St Mary/South West/1752. Sherriffhales/Midlands/1663. Palgrave Academy/Suffolk/1775. Rathmell/North/1669. Saffron Walden/Essex/1680.  Wapping/London/1675. Shrewsbury/Midlands/1663.  Stratford-on-Avon/Midlands/1715. Sulby/Midlands/1680.Tubney/South/1668. Taunton/South West/1672. Tewkesbury/South West/1680. Tiverton/South West/dates unknown. Wapping/London/1675.  Warrington/North/1757.  Wellclose Square (Coward Trust) (moved to Hoxton Square in 1762)/London/1744. Whitehaven (moved to Bolton 1723)/North/1710. Whitchurch/Midlands/1668.  Wickhambrook/Suffolk/1670.
Additional records:
New College /London – This was a Congregational academy formed by the amalgamation of Daventry Academy as Coward College, Highgate Academy and the Homerton College. 1850to 1900. Became part of University of London in 1900.
Northampton –Started at Kibworth moved to Hinckley, Market Harborough and in 1729 to Northampton. In 1752 moved to Daventry and then back to Northampton.
Idle became Airedale Independent College in 1826. From 1834 in Undercliffe and from 1877 in Bradford. In 1888 Rotherham and Airedale became Yorkshire United College, Bradford.
Warrington Academy 1757-1783. Library moved to Manchester New College, in 1783 moved York, Manchester and London. At one stage Harris Manchester College. Oxford. (See pages on this website site for more information on the Warrington Academy).
Ottery St Mary started by Congregational Board with representation from Bridford, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol.
Newington Green judged by many as the best of the academies. Charles Morton tutor – subjects taught included, mathematics, natural sciences and well equipped laboratory.
Attercliffe Academy established by Richard Frankland.
Some Famous People (Tutors, former Students) Associated with Dissenting Academies:
Benjamin Disraeli, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Wesley, Joseph Priestley, John Dalton, Richard Frankland. Charles Morton. John Locke.

The Invisible College (1645-1658).

With the progress of science in the 17th century in such subjects as astronomy, anatomy, mechanics and physiology along with the multitude of inventions and the improvement of scientific instruments e.g. telescopes, microscopes, came a growing interest of science and its associated technologies. Many groups were established during the 17th century to disseminate and gain greater understanding of the developments in science and in some cases the technologies that arose from them. A number of independent, scientifically minded people and university people established a private and informal group that became known as the ‘the Invisible College’/ ‘the philosophical college’/’ the men of Gresham’. The Invisible College was based on Francis Bacon’s principles that knowledge is power and that all knowledge has been given for use, and the relief of man’s state (and not for its own sake). (See below more background to Baconian philosophy and thinking). The aim of the College was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. Sadly little is known of this group even though it is seen by many as a precursor/predecessor to the Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge (later called the Royal Society). An account of its founding was written by one of its original members John Wallis (1616-1703) who wrote ‘I take its first ground and foundation to have been in London about the year 1645 (if not sooner) when Dr Wilkins, Dr Jonathan Goddard –with myself and some others met weekly —– confining ourselves thereunto as Physick, Anatomy, Geometry, Astronomy, Navigation, Mechanics and Natural Experiments’. These topics reflected the interests and specialisms of many of the members e.g. Robert Moray, Robert Boyle, John Evelyn, Benjamin Worsley, Christopher Wren, Jonathan Goddard and William Petty. and a number of medical doctors. Meetings were held at a variety of locations including Goddard’s house in Cheapside, the Mitre Tavern near Wood Street. Later they met at the Bull Head Tavern and at Katherine Jones (1615-1691) house and Gresham College (1597-present) in Bishopsgate. Katherine was an intellectual in her own right as well as being Robert Boyle’s elder sister. In addition to their interest in science the group were concerned with what they termed social improvement through education, scientific advance and technology and acquiring knowledge through experimental investigation.
Even though little is known about the invisible college its influence cannot be under estimated. For example it inspired the imagination of the young Robert Boyle and fuelled his commitment, enthusiasm and interest in natural philosophy and science. Boyle was the youngest of the members becoming a member a year after its foundation. Robert Boyle is now seen as one of the founders of modern chemistry. He became aware of the invisible college when he visited London and subsequently wrote to his former tutor Isaac Marcombe extolling how the group had got him interested in natural philosophy, the mechanics and husbandry’. These studies were ‘according to the principles of our new philosophical college, that values no knowledge, but as it hath a tendency to use’. (Note the Baconian principle cited above). He invited his former tutor to attend one of the meetings of the College writing ‘bring along with you good receipts or choice books of any of these subjects that you can procure; which will make you extremely welcome at our invisible college’. In another letter letter to Francis Tallents (fellow at Magdalene College Cambridge) he wrote ‘the corner stone of the invisible, or the philosophical college, do now and then honour me with their company —men of so capacious and searching spirits, that school-philosophy is but the lowest region of their knowledge’.  The group barred all ‘discussion of Divinity, of State- affairs and of News other than what concerned our business of Philosophy’).
Around 1648/49 Petty, Wilkins, Wallis and Goddard moved to Oxford and formed a branch of the Invisible College.  Their decampment from London followed one of the first acts of Parliament in the early days of the Commonwealth which was the ‘purgation’ of the universities. Senior people were removed and ‘safer men’ appointed in their place. Meetings in London continued while meetings in Oxford were held at Petty’s house and later at Wadham College. Both groups continued to communicate with each other and held joint meetings whenever possible. The London group met at Gresham College until 1658 when it discontinued because of the civil war. In 1660 Monk’s army entered London and restored order and the meetings resumed in the same year. Following the Restoration the London and Oxford groups resumed their activities and at the end of 1660 it was resolved to constitute themselves as a Society of Philosophers. Later discussions proposed the establishment of a college for promoting ‘Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning’ and a set of rules were drawn up including that meetings should be held weekly and a one shilling fee paid each week to cover expenses. One important meeting was on 28th November 1660 following a lecture by Wren on astronomy held at Gresham College. Subsequently Robert Moray was mandated by the Society to approach the King to seek a more formal structure for the group and a possible Royal Charter of Incorporation to be conferred on it. Following negotiations the Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge was created receiving the Great Seal on 15th July 1662. So the invisible college with its two groups in London and Oxford and the support of Gresham College is now seen as the precursor for the Royal Society. Gresham College shown below in 1740 from an engraving.
 Gresham College 1740 (Engraving)
More Detail about the members:
John Wallis 1616-1703. (Professor of geometry at Oxford). Samuel Foster 1616-1652. (Mathematician and Professor of anatomy at Gresham College). (See history pages of this website for more detail about Gresham College). John Evelyn 1620-1706. (Diarist, Writer). Jonathan Goddard 1617-1675. (Physician). Benjamin Worsley 1618-1673. (Physician and Experimental Scientist). John Wallis 1616-1703. (Mathematician). William Petty 1623-87. (Economist, Scientist and Philosopher). Robert Boyle 1627-1691. (Natural Philosopher, Chemist, Physicist, Inventor). Christopher Wren 1632-1723. (Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College and Architect). Robert Moray 1608/9-1673. (Scientist and spy). John Wilkins 1614-1672. (Theologian later became Bishop of Chester).George Ent 1604-1689). (Physician friend and supporter of William Harvey). Christopher Merret 1614/15-1695. (Physician and writer on Natural Philosophy). William Neile 1637-1691. (Amateur scientist particularly interested in optics). Francis Glisson 1599?-1677. (Physician, Anatomist and Physiologist).
Experimental aspects explored and considered by the Invisible College included: Circulation of blood (note friendship between Harvey and Ent), valves in the veins, the Copernican hypothesis, nature of comets and stars, improvement of the telescopes, weighing air, falling objects under gravity, barometric measurement (Torricellian experiments).
The Invisible College is important in history as it was one of the first groups that realised the importance of science and scientific research and made a major contribution to the subsequent expansion of scientific experimentation in British science and the formation of scientific societies e.g., the Royal Society.
It would be a fascinating exercise to compare the Invisible College with the Lunar Society – two amazing groups particularly their differences.
Webster. C. ‘The origins of the Royal Society.’ History of Science. VI. 1967.
Kassell. L. ‘Invisible College.’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. OUP 2010.
Turner. D. M. ‘History of Science Teaching in England.’ Chapman and Hall. 1927.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Philosopher and Statesman.
Bacon stressed the importance of experiment in interpreting nature and the importance of possible evidence which might contradict any already existing thesis or view.  He held that, to prepare the mind for the intuition of the true essence or nature of a thing, it has to be meticulously cleaned of all anticipations, prejudices, and idols. For the source of all error is the impurity of our own minds; Nature does not lie. His use of anticipation in his much of his writings can be equated to the concept of hypothesis.His method of scientific induction became very influential in future scientific research.

The Importance of Guidance: Part 1

At this time of unprecedented change in the nature of the world of work and the transformations that are occurring in the profile of employment, guidance for people to decide on their education, training and employment is even more critical than ever.  This is particularly important for technical and vocational subjects in order to help dispel some of the negative attitudes towards these important subjects and also improve their image in the eyes of people especially the young. Educational and training Institutions must develop comprehensive and effective guidance systems to open up access, increase and widen participation, improve retention and produce individuals who will match the employment needs of the country.  People, whether preparing to enter employment or those already in work who may be considering a career change, require support to make the correct decisions and as a result be more effective employees. Unfortunately for too long guidance has been treated as a bolt-on and even optional but it must now be fully integrated into the mainstream curriculum offered by education and training providers. It must become central at entry, on-programme and exit stages of provision in schools, colleges and training providers. If resources permit providers should establish a central guidance unit or for small scale institutions guidance resources of the other agencies should be used.
Guidance and careers guidance is a complex process and both require a clear definition and must include these important elements and be:
·         Impartial and student/client centred
·         Unbiased and without pressure from employers and education and training providers
·         Take full account of factors affecting and impacting on existing and future labour market information
·         Equally accessible to all students and people in general seeking advice
·         Promote equality of opportunity for all seeking advice and guidance
·         Developed and delivered by skilled and experienced staff who follow an agreed code of practice.
A multitude of activities are involved in such guidance including:
 Advising, Advocating, Assessing, Counselling, Enabling, Feeding back, Informing, Innovating/systems change, Managing, Networking  and Teaching
The two lists above should provide the elements and characteristics to define the code of practice for guidance that institutions must produce. The guidance process must be integrated into the curriculum at all stages of education and training and effective and on-going cooperation must exist between the guidance and teaching staff.
Open, impartial and continuous guidance
Guidance must be operated on an honest brokership basis. It is essential that it is unbiased and objective, based on the real needs of the individual, not the institutions. These elements are becoming even more important as colleges, training providers and adult education/lifelong learning centres increase the numbers of mature students who will require guidance especially at the diagnostic/ entry stage. With the continuing problems of functional illiteracy and innumeracy in this country initial diagnostic techniques and the guidance process must be sympathetic and understanding of the needs of the learners. The education and training providers must establish an on-going guidance service throughout the learners’ programmes. Quite often learners realise that they are on the wrong course or begin to struggle with their studies and therefore require addition learning support and continuing guidance. This will require that the initial guidance is complemented by more specialised guidance provision either from the institution or from outside guidance agencies. Therefore it is essential that the institutional central guidance services, if they exist, establish an effective wide ranging network including subject teachers, employers and other guidance professionals. This model of complementarity will make certain that the learners continually receive objective guidance that will provide the necessary checks and balances in the system e.g. if the learner is struggling with their studies or is unhappy with the provision.
The need for open and unbiased guidance is a result of a number of complex and interrelated factors. These include: non-existent, ineffective or ill-informed guidance in schools, colleges, universities or other guidance services; parental pressure which is often determined by the false perception that ‘A’ levels and ‘GCSEs’ are superior to other technical and vocational qualifications; peer influences and sadly often ill-informed advice from teachers who have limited direct experience of working in industry, commerce or employment areas outside the rather narrow academic world. The added challenge for technical and many vocational subjects is the negative image that they possess as evidenced in the history of technical and commercial education and training.
 Guidance is a profession and vocation in its own right and requires specialised training and the role of guidance staff is to complement teachers to provide a high quality holistic service to all learners. After all there is no point in increasing and widening participation if as a result of poor guidance retention rates decline and failure rates increase. Surveys over many years conducted across Europe have shown that up to 10% students feel they are on the wrong course. Unfortunately many students who feel they are on the wrong course often cannot transfer, either because of the lack of an appropriate alternative or the rigid time constraints of the course scheduling or even more worrying the pressure put on them by the teacher/lecturer. The need to maintain class viability often means that students are made to remain on the course with the resultant low retention rates or failure. In order to improve the participation in technical and vocational subject’s effective guidance, advice and information systems must be introduced across the education and training sectors as a matter of urgency. This will hopefully improve the overall image of these subjects and dispel many of the misconceptions of these strategically important subjects.
Part 2 will continue to raise issues associated with this important topic.

The Importance of Guidance: Part 2.

Part 2 continues to reinforce the importance of guidance in education and training especially during the current recession and for technical and vocational subjects. Some key factors that need to be considered when formulating a policy include the following:
As usual, resources whether human, physical and financial will play an important part in developing and implementing a more effective strategy. One of the key challenges is to realise value for money for the service and economy of scale. This is a fact that has to be addressed particularly during a period of financial austerity and massive cuts that education and training budgets are now experiencing. One critical issue that must be considered is the number and proportion of specialist and non-specialist guidance advisers involved both within education/training institutions and in other agencies. Professionally qualified specialist advisers will need to move between the various education and training centres to support the staff based within schools, colleges and training providers. Clearly team working and cross departmental cooperation will be even more essential for the operation of a successful and cost effective service in order to maximise the expertise.  The reforms over the past few years have not been particularly successful e.g. Connections and the focusing on specific age groups and an urgent and major set of reform s are long overdue.
Labour Market Intelligence (LMI)
Critical to this is that there must be a comprehensive, up to date labour market intelligence system that identifies and informs education and training providers as accurately as possible the current and future needs of employers. (See other articles on this website). The issues associated with the supply and demand equation of appropriately skilled labour are both challenging and complex but must be managed in an economic, effective and efficient manner (the 3 E’s). The critical factor is how one achieves the balance of the supply and demand equation and any guidance system must be fully aware of the needs of the employers currently and in the future and crucially what the government’s employment intentions are. This is particularly important when inward investment developments are being explored by the government. Effective partnerships and ongoing communications are essential between the guidance service, the government and its relevant departments, employers and education and training providers. New employment opportunities and structures and industries/occupations are appearing rapidly and challenge traditional assumptions about career choices and ways of operating information, guidance and advice systems. The nature and patterns of work for individuals are changing rapidly and more so in the current volatile global financial climate. This will require well informed guidance professionals who are aware of these external transitions who can provide impartial information, advice and guidance. People are likely to have more jobs over a lifetime i.e. to have a portfolio work style and equally importantly people have to be more flexible and realistic in their career aspirations. Knowledge and skill bases are expanding and developing at an exponential rate and in some industries the knowledge half life is now six months. The future profile of employment will comprise the so-called knowledge economy and a mix of essential traditional industries and the challenge is to achieve a realistic balance between these two that reflects the needs and aspirations of the islands.  This country must create an economy that requires a wide range of competences, skills and knowledge bases. The qualifications offered by education and training centres must match and provide these skills etc. Equally importantly the providers must prepare their learners to enter employment by offering impartial, relevant and up to date guidance, advice and information.
The Guidance Process and Lifelong Learning
Impartial and well informed guidance is essential as part 1 identified and the lack of information about education and training opportunities and not knowing what is available and what the benefits are must be addressed through universal access to impartial and comprehensive information, guidance, support and advice. Information about the potential education, training and employment opportunities is essential but even this may not be enough. People need to learn but sadly a number are reluctant to engage in learning. One solution is to stimulate demand for lifelong learning as well as reviewing and reforming the current ways of supply; focusing on the possible barriers to learning and remove these in order to motivate people to learn.
After all lifelong learning has to compete for people’s time and attention. The labour market tends to reward higher levels of knowledge and skills, so there is a personal financial incentive, as well as the reward of business performance and growth. The employment profile for the country is still changing and it is imperative that it achieves that difficult balance across and between a range of competences and skills that will be required in future employment.  Education and training providers must offer programmes that prepare learners of all ages to enter these new and emerging occupational areas ensuring they are more fully informed of the nature of their chosen employment. The guidance process must also stress the importance of continuing professional development in order to create a culture of lifelong learning.
One other important factor in addition to the information, guidance and advice giving is that a number of people will require support with their literacy, computer and numeracy skills i.e. basic skills. Education and training providers will have such facilities that could be used by the wider community using a referral system from the guidance advisers. These days basic and employability skills coupled with specific specialised skills are becoming essential in preparing a well educated/trained workforce for the future.
Work Experience/Placement
If resources allow programmes of work experience/placement are invaluable enhancements in the curriculum for employment preparation particularly for post-16 students. This is particularly true whether or not the learners have focused or unfocused career intentions. Many people often have unrealistic attitudes towards particular occupations and a period of work experience/placement can help confirm or refute that intention.
Specific needs
One of the real challenges of developing a comprehensive guidance system is managing the heterogeneous populations requiring guidance whether young or adult and particularly those with specific/special needs.
In order to maintain high quality guidance systems which engenders confidence and respect among users regular monitoring and inspection regimes will need to be developed. In order to recognise the importance of guidance within education and training the staff involved will need to be supported by programmes of CPD and accepted as equals in what will become an even more important activity. The development of a guidance system is a very challenging task but an essential one if the economy of this country is to thrive and compete with other countries.
Final observation
To develop and maintain a guidance process is both a very difficult and challenging task as it is different from formal teaching and learning* but if an effective, impartial, open and objective system is established it pays dividends for both the learner, the institution, employer and ultimately the country.
·         See the elements in part 1 that differentiates and defines the guidance process from teaching formal subjects.

How Effective is Labour Market Intelligence (LMI)?

How effective are current labour market research methods in identifying skills gaps and shortages? And how good are the statistical models used to illustrate the shape and nature of employment profiles in the future?
Above are two key questions particularly in the current recession that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Providers of education and training are looking to improve their prediction and monitoring techniques. Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) is the foundation upon which much of their planning and subsequent provision is based. What programmes should be developed and offered in the future and how best can the supply and demand equation be balanced more effectively? LMI also has a significant influence on government policy and expenditure on critical areas of education and training.
The problem is that globalisation – including the free flow of labour inside an enlarged European Union – brings about massive transformations and unforeseen consequences. Here are just a few of the more obvious transformations in the global economy and labour force:
·         Demographic asymmetry – an aging workforce and lower birth rates in many industrialised developed nations compared with the developing nations that have higher birth rates and proportionally younger workforce.
·         Changing work profiles – multiple careers throughout people’s working lives coupled with different modes of working, e.g. part-time and home based.
·         Increased world–wide mobility of the work force.
·         Accelerating scientific and technological discovery and innovation.
·         Resourcing–the impact of changing cycles of outsourcing, as companies pursue cheaper or more efficient labour markets.
·         Changes in company structures – resulting from mergers and acquisitions and leading to more complex human resource legislation and regulation.
·         Increasing influence of multinational corporations and enterprises.
Inevitably the global labour market is becoming ever more volatile as well. In such a complex environment, more effective statistical techniques and modelling methods are urgently required. New measurement instruments and data bases are needed, which can more effectively identify, match and articulate with the emergent global trading and economic landscape. More relevant information, focussed more sharply on cross-occupational sectors in order to illuminate and inform business and political policy making and this in turn informs educational and training providers.
Problems caused by the current state of market research include the following elements:
·         Inadequate knowledge of what competences, skills and knowledge will be required in the future.
·         Inability to monitor and identify the knowledge half-life of key disciplines, especially those where the pace of innovation is especially rapid e.g. ICT.
·         A resultant mismatch between the products of education and training and the needs of the employers.
·         A growing inability to achieve a balance in the supply and demand equation.
Some statisticians argue that current approaches to labour market data and the subsequent analysis represents a classic case of measurement without knowledge. Paolo Garonna, a former Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, observed: “measurement gaps and the lack of quality data are the main obstacles to shedding light on the crucial set of relationships between the acquisition and accumulation of knowledge and labour market performance.”  It is an intriguing paradox that we have more data from a wider range of disparate and disconnected sources than ever before – but this does not necessarily provide more reliable, valid and meaningful information. More accurate and accessible statistics and information are necessary to provide useful labour market intelligence within the global context.
Recent surveys and reports highlighting current and future skills gaps and shortages in the country still seem to be using the more traditional statistical techniques. Bearing in mind the less than impressive results from work-force planning in the past e.g. numbers of teachers, doctors, plumbers etc, does this not suggest that – in the UK at least – we currently lack the tools to predict future labour market needs? And how will this affect the ability of our education and training system to rise to the challenges and match the needs of employers and produce a workforce that will compete more successfully in the global economy.
A final point and a wider set of questions
What does growth mean for a particular country? What is the relationship/balance between domestic needs and export/international trade? Is chasing growth one of the sources of our current worldwide woes? What implications do these and other questions have for LMI?
Maybe another article?  

Science, Technology and Policy Making

Should scientists and technologists become more involved in policy making and/or as socio-political influencers and if so what are the resultant responsibilities of educational providers, whether in schools, colleges or universities?
The role and the influence of scientists and technologists in formulating national policy has never been more important. The scientific and technological dimensions are but two of a number of wider ranges of complex and interacting dimensions associated with the financial/political/social domain. With the increasing concerns about the long-term consequences of scientific and technological developments on the global environment and people’s lives in general, there is a need to achieve an effective balance between science/technology policy and the wider domains.
Increasingly the concept of a nation state is declining as a focus of power, being largely usurped by the growth and influence of multinational companies and corporations and the resultant global economies. There is a breakdown in the traditional paradigms for the way government and societies operate and function. This is, in part, a product of increasing disenchantment with party political representation and the resultant emergence of the power of factional interest groups and single-issue pressure groups, together with market, competition and profit values which downgrade public ownership and responsibility. These undoubtedly question traditionally understood forms of democracy and other political philosophies.
Science and technology already dominate what people take for granted in their lives and it is important that scientists and technologists recognise and accept more fully their responsibilities for these realities both as policy makers/influencers and as citizens. Scientific and technological influences will in future, have even greater prominence in daily life and in the products and services which will be in demand worldwide.
Science education, in terms of its process and content, must be reviewed and planned, so that people are better prepared for involvement in a science and technology-based workforce, or for a more informed understanding about their applications in society. A more scientifically and technologically literate society and workforce must be central in lifelong learning and a learning society.
There is a common perception that science and technology is damaging to the environment and the people’s way of life. This can create a negative and hostile view of science which manifests itself, at worst, in indifference and passivity towards the subject, or a view that it is elitist and closed. Among the sceptics are many who are interested in environmental issues but distrust the physical sciences, which they perceive to have damaged the environment and lowered the quality of life.
Products and services which people take for granted are increasingly based on science and technology, but paradoxically people do not wish to see or understand the production processes that are associated with these, often viewing them as damaging to the environment. The growth in the various lobbyists and factional groups is a symptom of how many people feel about science and technology. Some recent examples highlighted these issues, namely, the BP oil leak and deep sea drilling for oil, the reliability of data about global warming, the further development of growing GM foods, the dangers of microwave radiation from mobile phones and masts and the possible use of nano-technologies and three dimensional printing etc.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of these issues, one is still left with an overwhelming sense of confusion and uncertainty about the impact of these scientific and technological developments. People must surely be able to analyse and balance all the apparently contradictory information and evidence in order to form a view about the relative merits of such developments. Education and training must play a vital role in informing judgements.
The exploitation of radiation in its medical and military uses is a classic example of the closed and mysterious activities of science and technology. The extent of the misuse of radiation, especially in the development of nuclear weapons, is only just emerging. Notwithstanding the inevitable political and nationalistic imperatives of the times, the distortion of the uses of science and technology makes scientists the architects of mass destruction in society’s view.
Even with the development of radiation diagnostic techniques in medicine, particularly with x-rays, there is now evidence of early ignorance of its dangers, both by scientists and operators. In order not to repeat these mistakes, and to help dispel the negative perception of science, scientific and technolological issues must be more openly discussed and be central to educational content and process, both at the compulsory and post-compulsory stages.
The current concerns associated with, say, global warming, and pollution, peaceful use of nuclear energy, genetic engineering, mobile phone technologies and nano-technologies, require acceptable solutions, whether based on scientific, moral, economic or political grounds. This will only be possible with a more scientifically and technologically literate society, with more open debate between the scientists, decision makers and members of society in general. The Nobel Prize to Professor Rotblat highlights the need for interest groups, which work over many years involving a number of informed and influential social and physical scientists.
Lifelong learning and training, including continuing science education, must become consonant with technological, economic, political and societal change and, it could be argued, should even move in advance of public understanding of all these and other elements of change.
In the past, the passivity of science has largely developed a reactive stance by people. If, in the future, people wish to influence the consequences of science and technology, whether known or yet to be demonstrated, there needs to be a culture of pro-activity. The growth of well informed factional interest and ‘single issue’ groups, with the resultant enhanced enablement of the individual, could help develop this pro-activity. There are some real dangers with such developments and there needs to be a sensible balance between the long-term benefits to society and the views of the factional groups. The lobbyists will raise important and legitimate concerns about scientific and technological developments. However, they actually could impede important, strategic and beneficial advances. A more informed populace, which is more self critical about consumer needs, could bring about more effective and acceptable changes associated with the consultation and planning phases.
Practicing scientists/technologists must be key players in policy formulation, as science contributes to many elements of current and future policy. Science sees itself as being objective and deterministic. It should and can moderate policy. The right questions need to be raised. The key is how they should be framed within the wider social/political/financial domains. Should scientists and technologists be ‘on top’ or ‘on tap’ andhow should this be managed within the strategic partnership that will finally articulate and form the policy?
There is a major challenge ahead for teachers and institutions to find ways to produce a more scientifically and technological literate society, which can be more aware of the possible consequences of scientific and technologic advances and developments. Equally important is preparation of front-line scientists/technologists to network among and beyond themselves. They need become more ‘aware’ of the possible consequences of their discoveries and their resultant productions and help society to understand the implications clearly. In addition they must be good communicators and manage public relations to a high order.

Vocational Higher Education

The crude oppositional approach to debates over vocational education and training and academic education has been a long and largely unproductive one in the UK. Many reports and government publications over the decades have advocated the recognition of the equal value of vocational education and training both within the Further and Higher Education sectors. Successive governments have talked about bringing a greater occupational focus into degree programmes but with little lasting effect.
Periodically during their terms of office successive governments appear to rediscover the importance of vocational education particularly at the higher education level and then attempt to create a number of initiatives to raise the profile of this critically important matter within the education and training landscape. The introduction of foundation degrees, graduate apprenticeships, half baked attempts to emphasise the importance of work based learning, the introduction of the so-called employability agenda and personal and social skills into degree programmes have been a few recent examples. Personal and social skills have been long been advocated by employers.
One effective approach to improving the awareness of the work place has been the placement of students into employment during their degree programmes and a number of models have been tried including sandwich courses (thin and thick) and work shadowing. Sadly sandwich programmes have declined significantly since the 1960s. These programmes provided students with real work placements of varying durations. In addition some universities and employers have developed internships but again these, particularly in the current recession, have been curtailed but with an increased tendency for the employers to require payment from the students for the opportunity. Programmes of work experience/placement add value to a student’s education and better prepare them for work. Research has shown that students who have been on such programmes gain higher classifications in their degrees, obtain employment more quickly than those students who do not undertake work experience. However too often students want to complete their degrees as quickly as possible because of the current student loan regime and the majority of universities have been reluctant to operate the work placement programmes because of added cost and administration burdens. The former polytechnics are often the exception and compared with the older universities have continued the programmes, many working with the CGLI Senior Awards that recognise the work placement. Overall the HE sector does not fully recognise the need or value in vocationalising degree programmes. 
A Bit of History
It might be of value to refresh our memories with a little history of higher education vocational awards (for more detail see the history of technical education on this website). Ever since the Great Exhibition (1851) and the Paris Exhibition (1867) it became clear that Britain was losing its supremacy in manufacturing and began its long period of relative decline in regard to international competitiveness and productivity with other countries. Innumerable Royal Commissions and other reports stressed and highlighted the urgent need to improve education and training at all levels of the educational system particularly of technical and vocational programmes at the higher levels. A number of changes to the HE system have been attempted over the past few decades in order to respond to the increasing challenges from international competitors. For example in 1956 a number of institutions were designated or created to become technological and vocational in character within the HE sector. Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs) were established focusing on higher levels of work and awarded Diplomas in Technology. Following the Robbins Report these ten institutions were designated university status and allowed to award degrees. In 1967 Anthony Crossland, in one of two seminal speeches, criticised universities for what he described as their lack of response to society’s needs and indicating that greater responsiveness would only come from institutions which were ‘under more direct social control’. Thus Polytechnics were created and were seen by central government as being different from universities in terms of the type of degrees awarded, the balance between teaching and research, as well as the comprehensive nature of the student population. Polytechnics were eventually became universities in 1991/2 a move criticised by a number of commentators.    
At the time of their inception many of these institutions developed innovative vocational degree programmes with strong and effective links with employers. Often they included provision of sandwich placements with employers. These programmes were seen as offering realistic experiences in the workplace and were greatly valued by both students and employers. Sadly, following the decline of large parts of the manufacturing base of the UK, particularly with large employers, sandwich programmes decreased. In addition problems with student, institutional and employer finances contributed to this decline. The introduction of student loans accelerated the decline and the current proposed changes in university student funding will further exacerbate the demise of work experience programmes. A few HE institutions maintained their offer of vocationally focused programmes with work placement (mainly the former Polytechnics) but overall academic drift continued – a disease that has blighted the education system in England for centuries – reflecting the fundamental and historical hostility to the more vocationally and technically focused subjects, (with certain exceptions like accountancy, law and medicine which often carry the title vocational). In addition students often encouraged by parents opt for the more supposedly academic subjects that are perceived as offering greater security and better paid salaries. Also the funding methodologies have encouraged universities to offer provision that is popular and as a result to reduce low recruiting programmes in such subjects as engineering, construction/built environment , manufacturing and the physical sciences. This reflected a similar trend in Further Education Colleges where the funding regimes created the ‘dash for cash’ or ‘bums on seats’ approach and brought about the downsizing, closure or merging of key technical and vocational departments and faculties in colleges and universities. This brief and partial history highlights that the debate is still alive with little evidence of a long-term solution. The government response to the current recession is to propose massive cuts proposed in colleges (25%) and radical changes to student funding in HE with fees to increase possibly two or three fold. This will further decimate the technical and vocational provision just at the time the UK has to fundamentally rethink its future industrial and commercial place in the global economy and when these must surely be the subjects that could allow a successful reconfiguration. Employers still argue strongly that the majority of their graduate recruits lack experience and qualifications, which ‘gel’ with their requirements and that the recruits are not work ready. Employers have long expressed concerns about the quality of the graduates and are frustrated with university products. Many state that the universities are out of touch with the needs of business and operate in isolation from the world of work. Too often graduates have little or no understanding of the business and commercial worlds. The widely held view of employers is that there is a real gap/disconnect between the academic and business worlds – each seems to operate in separate boxes – they see the universities’ view as academic needs first followed by business needs. Many cite international practices e.g. China, Germany and US where the universities work very much more closely and effectively with employers. Employers also feel that academic staff are often not up to date with current technical and business practices and techniques. Employers quite rightly want to recruit ‘work ready’ graduates who possess real experience and understand more fully the needs of the workplace. The wider employability skills like better communication skills, dependability, integrity, Importance of working to deadlines, problem solving, reliability and team working/collaboration skills are often cited. Increasingly employers place a premium on such skills. Employers want to see business knowledge and enterprise skills. The real danger at present in the UK with the recession and the government’s austerity measures is that more poor-quality and low- skills jobs will increase and that the hoped for renaissance will not happen. Instead a weak, impoverished economy will emerge.  
Perceived Primary Purpose  
Universities counter these criticisms by arguing that it is not their primary purpose to prepare their students for job specific roles. Recent statements from senior university people in the media representing the Russell League/Group of universities restated this somewhat precious viewpoint, which surely harped back to the elitist and ivory tower model of Victorian higher education system. So the impression is that the traditional suspicions between education and business still persist and each continues to be wary of the other. One interesting consequence from employers to this problem is the development of in-company schemes to train recent recruits and the development of corporate universities. Also many large companies are returning to recruiting school/college students and providing either day release or in-house programmes i.e. growing their own talent where the employees learn on job the necessary skills, knowledge, understanding and competences for that particular job or professional role. Obviously it remains to be seen if the reformed apprenticeship programmes will improve the flow of properly skilled people into business and strengthen the education/training and employer links. Internships also offer some hope but recently companies have been requiring students to pay for their placement which makes this a somewhat exclusive option i.e. it allows entry to only students who have the money to pay. Also it must be noted that this development is occurring predominantly with financial services and industries.
Recent developments with Foundation Degrees and Graduate Apprenticeships promised much but still have not reached a critical mass in key subjects to have any real impact. In fact Graduate Apprentices were launched with great gusto but petered out as quickly. Foundation Degrees were a result of Tony Blair’s misplaced and misguided statement about increasing university education to 50% by 2010 which has misfired with the recent recession. Seventy graduates now chase every job vacancy and equally sadly often involving graduates with degrees in subjects not in demand or in over supplied subjects. The supply-demand equation is very unbalanced at this critical time of recession. Foundation Degrees have also undermined Higher National Certificates and Diplomas which have long been greatly valued by many employers (another example of academic drift is to attach degree to the title and think it is more important!). These forerunner awards were very much vocationally focused.
Opportunities for Work Placements
The more traditional honours degrees must surely incorporate enhanced guidance, feedback and reflection elements and high-level employability key skills into the programmes. In spite of the current recession there must be a dramatic extension in programmes of work experience, job shadowing, internships etc. Companies particularly the small and medium sized must receive some form of support and encouragement say via tax incentives to take students on such programmes.
In order to move the debate forward and to make the HE curriculum more vocationally relevant and work related the following points could be considered:
·         Consolidate and build upon the undoubted benefits and value of work experience; provision needs to expand in order to achieve a critical mass and so have a greater impact
·         HE institutions to develop and refine methods of recording students’ work experiences via reflective/critical diaries, portfolios, records of achievement and transcripts
·         Encourage and truly value the contributions made by employers and not treat their involvement as tokenistic and cosmetic
·         Develop stronger and more effective partnerships with other institutions e.g., colleges and training providers and employers
·         Introduce employability skills into all degree programmes
·         HE Institutions to make closer links with strategic economic planners in the process of introducing or improving curricula and programmes.
Based on an article first published in ‘t’ magazine in January 2004.