• Continental selections? Institutional actors and market mechanisms in post-16 education in England

      Esmond, Bill; Centre of Educational Research and Innovation, University of Derby (Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), 2019-08-06)
      Recent policies for English technical and vocational education, centred on apprenticeship reforms and the Sainsbury Review, have prioritised employer-led curricula and learning in employment settings. These policies are represented in policy discourse as radical changes that imitate successful European systems, raising new issues about the possibilities and limitations of policy learning and policy borrowing. Useful insights are offered by comparative political economy, which has located skill formation within networks of complementary institutions that shape economic life, rendering problematic the notion of change in a single dimension such as skills. Relatedly, historical institutionalism explains skill formation both as an enduring institution but also as the product of specific historical conflicts over workplace training. Building on these theoretical conceptions, a series of qualitative case studies carried out at key points in the emergence of current skills policies is reviewed, which demonstrates how wider conflicts are reflected in a tension between selectivity and inclusion currently playing out in the implementation English skills policy. The findings indicate the possibility of further stratification in post-16 education, through the process that historical institutionalism describes as ‘layering’. However, possibilities for a more coherent relationship between educational practice and the workplace may also be derived from this analysis.