Centres of vocational excellence increase career aspirations of 14-16 year olds

The contribution made by centres of vocational excellence to the development of vocational work in schools found that large numbers of young people attending vocational courses moved on to post-16 provision, either at the college where they studied or another local college, or into related training.

The purpose of these centres is to develop high quality vocational training to meet the current and future needs of the local area. Many are based at colleges and offer vocational courses to 14-16 year olds from local schools.

The report showed that the centres provide a wider range of good quality courses and more specialist equipment to students than would be possible in local schools.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert, said:

"Schools have found that the attendance, motivation, self-esteem and career aspirations of 14 to 16 year olds have improved as a result of them taking vocational courses run with centres of vocational excellence which has often had a knock-on effect for a great many in improving their attendance in other lessons.

"The positive working between schools and colleges is helping to offer different and more varied opportunities to young people which means many are going on to further study or training."

However, lack of clarity about funding was found to be a potential barrier for further development of the centres, as was the reluctance of some schools to develop links with other providers. The report found that much more training and awareness-raising is needed to prepare for the new 14 to 19 diplomas in 2008.

The report recommends that colleges should promote the benefits that CoVEs can bring more widely to the schools in their area and involve local authorities in this work. It also recommends that colleges and schools should undertake more systematic joint staff development to prepare for the diplomas; with the support of the local authority, plan for sufficient harmonisation of timetables to maximise students' access to collaborative provision; and develop links between CoVEs and specialist schools with related vocational specialisms.

The Learning and Skills Council, local authorities, schools and colleges should review the funding of link programmes to ensure that these are sustainable in the future and that funding is equitable for those involved.