Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the weakness that has characterised the British education system for a century and a half has been a failure to produce enough people with technical and vocational qualifications, partly because of a presumption that they were for the less able and less academic? Can he reassure me that his reforms will tackle that weakness and ensure that technical and vocational qualifications that are of the utmost rigour and held in the highest esteem are available to all?

    Michael Gove: My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. One weakness in the implementation of the Education Act 1944 was that the third strand, technical schools, did not receive the investment that they should have done, and as a result a weakness in technical education, which this country has had since 1851, was reinforced.

    The advent of university technical colleges, an idea pioneered by Kenneth Baker and Andrew Adonis, is going some way to dealing with the problem, and Alison Wolf’s report, which has injected additional rigour into vocational qualifications, also helps to meet that challenge, but we need to do more, including reforming the funding of further education colleges in order to strengthen vocational subjects.