UK News

‘Culture change' needed to encourage schools to promote apprenticeships

Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent

A culture change is needed to encourage schools to promote apprenticeship routes among students and any “bad practice” should be stamped out, the skills minister has said.

Robert Halfon told the Commons Education Select Committee that it was “completely wrong” if only school pupils who had ruled out going to university were told to attend apprenticeship fairs.

The skills, apprenticeships and higher education minister said it “saddens” him that children who have done apprenticeships are “very rarely” celebrated by schools compared to those who went to university.

Mr Halfon said teaching degree apprenticeships could have “a big cultural change” in terms of encouraging students to pursue alternative routes.

During the Education Select Committee on Tuesday, Anna Firth, Conservative MP for Southend West, said around 1,000 Year 11 and 12 pupils attended an apprenticeship fair in Maidstone in Kent last week.

She told MPs that many of the pupils at the fair were asked if all their sixth form were attending and a number of children said “only those who had said they were not going to university” were in attendance.

Ms Firth asked: “Shouldn't all students be invited to a fair like this before they have been asked to elect? Because it seems that (we're) putting the cart before the horse if we don't give them this opportunity.

“How can the Government encourage schools to be more active in making this available?”

In response to the question, Mr Halfon said: “I'm very upset to hear that students, a kind of sector of students, were told to go to these apprenticeship fairs and some were not. That's completely wrong.”

The minister called on MPs to write to him with any examples of schools doing this as he said: “We've got to stamp out bad practice.”

Conservative MP Robin Walker, chair of the Education Select Committee, questioned whether schools believe they are “marked according to sending people to university rather than other outcomes”.

Mr Halfon replied: “I think this is much more a cultural thing because our whole system has been geared up from (…) the Blair years were ‘university, university, university', and really I have this mantra it should have been ‘skills, skills, skills', and so everyone was pushed to university.

“It does sadden me when I go to schools and you see – well it is a wonderful thing you see all the kids, pictures of the kids, or names of kids who've gone to university – but you very rarely see kids who've done apprenticeships and that's got to change.

“One thing that might change the culture is that we're looking at teaching degree apprenticeships.”

He added: “I think that if that does come through that will have a big cultural change in terms of encouraging students to do skills.”