Cllr Dr Kathy Smethers: Vocational Training Courses should be Reintroduced in Secondary Schools

There has been a policy of scrapping vocational training courses in schools because they were not sufficiently rigorous educationally to be equivalent to GCSEs. My argument is that there is a need for more practical based courses in schools for those pupils who struggle with academia, but flourish by studying in a different way.


In an economy where we need more plumbers, tilers and bricklayers it seems unreasonable to take away the opportunity to develop a background to those skills at school, while ensuring that diplomas studied maintain rigorous achievement in English and Maths.

Many schools and colleges have developed units designed to teach vocational courses, and some schools will struggle to achieve academic prowess bases solely on GCSE results because some pupils will never attain academic success. Not allowing these pupils to achieve at what they can excel at reduces their job prospects and sense of achievement, and makes little economic sense.

Education needs to be a route to a job for all, and not everyone wants or needs to get to university. A responsible government should ensure education is realistic for everyone.

A rethink in this area would be warmly welcomed. The connection with UMS (uniform mark scale) points is all that needs to be established. Value should be placed on the skills required, for example, to work in construction - not as a means to get into university.

In my own area secondary schools were running car mechanic workshops, equestrian courses based at a prestigious local college, horticulture and basic courses to become tree surgeons. All this is stopping because of the emphasis on GCSEs. I believe it should work in tandem with GCSEs so all pupils can achieve and be the best they can be. It makes social sense and economic sense.


Kathy Smethers is a Councillor in Eastbourne, and also serves as a school governor. She previously worked as an A&E doctor in London before retiring to bring up her two daughters.

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