The Future of Voc-ed: OCR & Cambridge Assessment Vocational Symposium

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On Thursday 29th November 2018, OCR and Cambridge Assessment hosted a symposium at the University of Warwick for educational professionals from schools, charities and organisations. Whole Education Secondary Network Facilitator Verity Cane attended the day, and shares her thoughts.

The Vocational Symposium was an opportunity to discuss the need and impact of vocational qualifications (such as Cambridge Nationals), hear policy updates on the introduction of T-Levels and discuss the future of vocational education.

So what did I learn? Having had little involvement with vocational education before the day, I seized the opportunity to understand how voc-ed can support schools to deliver a ‘whole education’.

Vocational education should develop behaviours as well as knowledge

Whole Education and OCR share a commitment to a ‘whole education’ that develops the range of knowledge, skills and qualities young people need to thrive. Whilst current vocational qualifications equip students with work-based skills, not all qualifications currently develop the behaviours needed for work adequately. Students require opportunities, both during lessons and when on work-experience placements, to practice their professional conduct, like knowing how to talk to customers and demonstrating dependability. This business intellect is difficult to measure, so is not always addressed in vocational qualifications.      

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Cambridge Technicals are OCR’s technical qualifications

Whilst this may seem obvious, there has been a lot of confusion in recent months regarding vocational education and the different qualifications on offer. Cambridge Technicals include a range of applied and creative subjects and over 16,000 learners have completed at least one Cambridge Technical on offer so far. Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications are offered, and 95% of UCAS applicants holding a Cambridge Technical have received offers from higher education institutions.

Cambridge Technicals develop skills, give diversity of assessment, are flexible and give students the opportunity to specialise.

The Harris Federation considers their vocational educational offer a key part of their success. Representing the Federation, Faculty Director Matthew Osborne shared the significant impact that Cambridge Technicals have had on Harris’ learners, particularly the most disadvantaged. Harris has enjoyed an accelerated progress of +0.3 progress and believes that the vocational offer has improved retention in Y11-12. Harris believes that the balanced, supported and proven approach of Cambridge Technicals ensures that students enter the world of work ‘enriched, influenced and integrated’.      

Vocational qualifications need to support the changing world of work

The speed at which technology is developing means that many of the jobs held by the future workforce will look very different to today. Working competently with AI is an increasingly essential skill and businesses will need to employ individuals that have digital skills to support those that do not. Whole Education’s own 9th Annual Conference investigates preparing young people for their futures in life, learning and work. Vocational education is one of the key approaches that we believe can ensure that all young people have the skills they need to thrive in a complex future. A job for life is now increasingly rare, and vocational education needs to support students to develop the resilience needed to move between industries and change careers.      

Careers advice needs to better prepare young people for their futures

Following the introduction of the Gatsby benchmarks, more still needs to be done to improve the quality of careers advice. Vocational education needs to ensure that students understand the opportunities that vocational qualifications bring and how different skills can be applied in a variety of industries. Careers advice should avoid guiding students to narrow career paths and should instead support young people to explore a wide variety of opportunities.

The symposium proved to be a meaningful forum for discussion around the importance of high-quality vocational education and ensuring qualifications adequately prepare young people for their future. Through Cambridge Technicals, OCR is addressing previous gaps in vocational education, and is successfully ensuring young people who choose the vocational route have the same quality of experience and opportunities as those on the A-Level route.   blue 2

For further information on Cambridge Technicals, please visit OCR’s website HERE.  For all queries, please contact To learn more about Whole Education’s conference, please visit this link.



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