MPs show stark academic bias in Parliamentary education debates

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For every minute spent discussing vocational education, MPs spend more than four minutes talking about academic education.

For every minute spent discussing vocational education, MPs spend more than four minutes talking about academic education.

Research has revealed that MPs have spent almost 21 hours discussing vocational education in Parliamentary debates since the 2010 General Election, compared to almost 89 hours on academic education.

Vocational campaigners are concerned at the revelation, especially in light of the fact that 

87 per cent of our current group of MPs (510) come from an academic background, while only 

13 per cent (78) have some kind of vocational background.

The research – from vocational awarding body City & Guilds – also finds that vocational debates are predominantly led by the backbenches. 

The figures show that less than half of the time MPs spent discussing vocational education was initiated by frontbenchers compared to two thirds for academic education debates.

Chris Jones, CEO and director general of City & Guilds, said the findings raise questions about the extent to which policy-makers “really understand about the value of vocational education”.

He added: “It is vital that Parliamentarians represent everyone, not just those who choose the academic route. This analysis confirms that much more still needs to be done to ensure that vocational education is given greater Parliamentary business time. 

“Only this will raise awareness of the crucial role that vocational education plays in equipping people with the skills they need to enter employment and fill the ever-growing skills gaps.

“We also need to encourage more people with backgrounds in vocational education to pursue careers in politics, so that Parliamentary debate can more evenly draw on a breadth of experience gained from every type of education route.”

Commenting on the figures, Stephen Lloyd MP, chairman of the Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: “It is important that Parliamentary time is equally given to skills and vocational education, as well as that of it is academic counterpart. 

“As chair of the All Party Group, we are committed to raising the status and profile of vocational education across the House. I have only just this week spoken in a debate on the future of vocational education and was struck by the high level of cross party agreement that existed.”

The research comes as figures from exams watchdog Ofqual reveal that more than six million vocational qualifications were achieved in 2012, one million more than in 2011.

Last Wednesday (June 5), celebrations took place across the country to mark the sixth annual Vocational Qualifications Day. VQ Day is organised by vocational education foundation Edge to champion technical, practical and vocational education and sees events taking place in schools, colleges and other centres across the country.

Among the celebrations, skills minister Matthew Hancock has recorded a digital “thank you” which is being sent to students across the country who have achieved a vocational qualification. Visit www.vqday.org.uk


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