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21:09 on Wednesday
31 December 2003

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Drain Doctor Plumbing chairman backs overhaul of education

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The chairman of the UK’s largest 24-hour emergency plumbing service today welcomed changes to the country’s education system that will permit more pupils to pursue vocational training for essential skills such as plumbing.

Freddie Mitman, founder and chairman of the Peterborough-based Drain Doctor Plumbing franchise business network, said: “The age profile of plumbers is rising as schools have been channelling more youngsters towards academic qualifications in ‘soft’ subjects that may do little to help their employability.

“An over-emphasis on academic studies has left some youngsters disenchanted with education when practical training in vocational skills could help them develop fulfilling careers and earn attractive salaries.

“The Institute of Plumbing has predicted that there could be a shortfall of 29,000 plumbers over the next five years and we, as the franchisor, are organising more basic training courses to ensure technicians are fully skilled. Many of our franchisees have introduced their own apprenticeships to fill the void in the education system.”

Mr Mitman was responding to a government announcement that post-14 pupils will in future need to take only three compulsory subjects – English, maths and general science – rather than the four subjects at present.

At the same time vocational qualifications will be awarded ‘parity of esteem ’.

School Standards Minister David Miliband said the reforms would give 14-19 year old pupils greater choice beyond the range of subjects in the National Curriculum.

He said upper secondary education in England historically had suffered from a weak vocational offer and a narrow academic track that resulted in a system “marked by barriers to learning”. The new greater flexibility would offer a range of vocational options.

Mr Miliband said: “I have never understood vocational to mean second class. Medicine is not second-class, law isn't second-class, music isn't second-class, and engineering isn't second-class. However, in England we have allowed vocational studies to have second-class status. This has to change. We need to develop confidence in our society that vocational learning can and does lead to good, skilled, and well-paid jobs.

“Part of that is the label. ‘Academic’ and ‘vocational’ do not do justice to the courses being studied. That is why I prefer to talk of general education and specialist study.”

The proposals include developing new hybrid GCSEs to include general and specialist options and there will be work-related learning and enterprise learning for all young people.

January 2003




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