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By Sam Tomlin

Education is one of the most hotly debated topics in British politics. The Education Secretary Michael Gove is one of the highest profile government ministers and most people will be aware of debates around ‘academies’, ‘free schools’ and tuition fees even if they do not know the specific details. Of course this is understandable as education is vital for any society to function properly – everyone has been through it and almost everyone knows people still in it.Voc Ed

There is one area of education, however, which has consistently failed to generate any kind of sustained popular or mainstream political debate and that is vocational education.

As it says on the tin, it is essentially education which prepares people (of all ages, but traditionally younger people) for a vocation – something that they specialise in. The system, involving various types of college, university and apprenticeship courses, is not simple to understand, but still plays a vital role in educating millions of people today (in 2011 it was estimated there were around 1.8million 16-18 year olds studying for vocational qualifications). Read More

More teachers are reporting high levels of stress. Gabe Palmer / Alamy

More teachers are reporting high levels of stress. Gabe Palmer / Alamy

By Sam Tomlin

This bank holiday weekend has seen delegates at the National Union of Teachers threaten to boycott classroom inspections and call for the resignation of the chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw. Dislike of Wilshaw and the inspectorate is nothing new from many teachers and historically there has often been significant tension between Ofsted and the unions. Discord has been growing, however, since the Coalition came to power amid new measures such as significant reductions in warning before inspections. In Ofsted’s own words:

“Ofsted also announced further reductions to the notice of inspections… Under the new arrangements, schools will receive almost no notice of an inspection with inspectors calling headteachers the afternoon before an inspection takes place. Ofsted proposed conducting school inspections without any notice but listened to headteachers’ concerns about this during the consultation. Calling the working day before an inspection will enable headteachers to make any necessary logistical arrangements including notifying parents and governors of the inspection. Parents can be reassured that inspectors are seeing schools as they really are.”

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