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UCU responds to Sainsbury review recommendations

8 July 2016 | last updated: 18 July 2016

The government must invest properly in colleges and the further education workforce if proposed reforms of technical and professional education are to succeed, UCU said today.

The union was responding to the recommendations of the Sainsbury review of technical education, due to be published later today, which set out a range of new technical education pathways for students. Young people at 16 will be asked to choose between the academic A-level option, or one of 15 new technical options.

The new technical routes will be delivered through a mix of college-based courses and apprenticeships, with a focus on developing core skills including English and maths, as well as specialist occupational skills.

UCU welcomed the emphasis on college-based learning as a key part of each new route, but warned that government will need to invest in colleges and address the falling value of lecturers' pay if it wants to ensure that the new routes are high-quality and delivered by expert teaching staff.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Colleges play a central role in Lord Sainsbury's recommendations, but they have been subject to significant budgetary pressures in recent years and investment must be a priority if quality is to be guaranteed.

'These significant reforms can only happen if the government supports college staff. Addressing declining staff pay will be vital if colleges are to attract the best staff to deliver core and specialist training.

'While there are some welcome proposals, the government needs to ensure it does not pigeon hole young people too early. The option to mix A-levels with vocational options like BTECs has been helpful in widening participation, so we still need to ensure a broad and flexible curriculum is available for students, including older people looking to retrain. The key will be delivering proper careers advice so people are making informed decisions that allow them to fulfil their potential.'