In Search of VET
This paper examines the reasons which make it difficult to establish a clear picture and understanding of vocational education and training (VET) in England. It begins by identifying a range of factors and policies which have prevented VET from having a clear identity and from developing higher status. These include confusion at government level about the role and nature of vocational education, and about the rights and responsibilities of employers in a voluntary system. It is argued that government attempts to raise the status of VET by bringing about closer links with academic education can be seen to have worked against the development of VET according to its special strengths and qualities. Several aspects of the ‘blurring’ of the academic/vocational distinction are discussed, including those affecting qualifications and their regulation, national funding and planning, and quality assurance. Evidence is produced to show that the attempt to ignore important differences has increased rather than removed anomalies of treatment, whilst also failing to strengthen links with professional education at HE level. It is concluded that without a clear concept of, and a location for, VET it will be impossible for policy-makers to define a first- rate vocational offer and to ensure the necessary infrastructure for its delivery.