Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education (The Sainsbury Report) and the Government’s Skills Plan response

Published 13th July 2016

On Friday 8th July the report by the Independent Panel on Technical Education, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, was published. In parallel, the Government published its Skills Plan which responds to the panel’s recommendations and sets out its overarching framework for the post-16 skills system.

The Government said, “Together, they herald the most radical reforms to post-16 education since A Levels were introduced. The Skills Plan presents a vision of a radically simplified system, with students presented with the clear choice of a high quality technical option at age 16, alongside the already highly regarded academic option. Building on the apprenticeship reforms, the technical option will provide students with a clear line of sight from education into skilled employment.”

A summary of both papers can be read in the pdf below.

What will be the impact on schools and Design and Technology?

The plan to have 15 full-time technical pathways after the age of 16, each with a single awarding body, will simplify the current, hugely complex and confusing post-16 technical and professional qualification landscape and make advising pupils wishing to follow these routes much easier.

The Skills Plan assumes that the post-16 technical option will be delivered via apprenticeship or a two-year, college-based route. Schools are not seen as part of this model. However:

  • the Skills Plan says the ‘academic’ route can include A-levels and ‘applied general qualifications’, which means school sixth forms offering a mixture of both should be unaffected;
  • as UTCs are likely to offer at least one technical pathway it is hard to see why some schools could not offer certain technical pathways, depending on their facilities and teaching expertise.

Richard Green, Chief Executive of the Design and Technology Association, said,

“However, the big disappointment is in what is said, or not said, about pre-16 education. The Sainsbury Report ignores it because it was beyond the remit of their group. Unfortunately, the Government’s Skills Plan reiterates the DfE’s policy intention of 90% of all pupils following the suite of Ebacc subjects (Paragraph 2.6). This  is deeply disappointing. The belief that, “a knowledge-based curriculum,” and the development of, “character traits and fundamental British values,” will help, “prepare children and young people for adult life,” is completely misaligned with the stated aims of the Skills Plan. If pupils are to consider Catering and Hospitality, Construction, Creative and Design, Digital and Engineering and Manufacturing, and the other 10 pathways, D&T and other creative and technical subjects have to be an essential part of their pre-, and post-, 16 curriculum. How can pupils be expected to make a rational choice between ‘academic’ and ‘technical’ pathways at 16 whilst being denied the experience of both pre-16?

D&T has always bridged the academic/vocational divide but the Government is in danger of implementing a post-16 plan at the same time as it is effectively dismantling the pre-16 feeder routes into it.”

The Design and Technology Association will continue to lobby Government to address this situation and work to ensure that access to a D&T education is available to all pupils.

Back to News