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Leading head calls for change in attitude regarding apprenticeships

A “shift in focus” away from university education and towards vocational training has been called for by a leading UK headmistress.

The president of the Girls' Schools Association, Hilary French, has made the suggestion that apprenticeships should be seen as a solid alternative to university education, rather than the poor relation. Many parents of privately educated girls have a "sniffy" attitude towards apprenticeships, Ms French is due to tell the annual Girls' Schools Association’s conference, which is due to be held from 18 to 20 November in Gateshead.

According to the Sunday Times, Ms French – who is also headmistress of the Central Newcastle High School – is due to tell conference attendees that there should be far less emphasis on university being the “automatic first choice next step” for girls following their A-levels. More should consider “in-work opportunities,” she is tipped to say in the speech.

Ms French will say: “There is huge potential in employer training courses and the new calibre of apprenticeships emerging. We must not be sniffy about them. Yes, at the moment we may associate apprenticeships with lower-level vocational training, but this need not and should not be the case.”

Amina Tagari, 18, spoke to the newspaper about her decision to opt for an apprenticeship over a university place: “Most of my friends went to university — they sit in classes taking notes whereas I feel I am getting experience as well as learning. I will be more employable as a result.”

Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, said: “Apprenticeships are a crucial part of addressing Britain's skills gap — concentrating only on academic training to the exclusion of technical training was a big mistake.”