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(Lecture first given by OCR’s Head of Policy Paul Steer to mark 25 years of vocational qualifications at Progress House in Coventry)
Cast your mind back to the 1990s. Oasis and the Spice Girls were riding high in the charts and John Major found himself elected as a Conservative Prime Minister, much against what was predicted in the polls. The early 1990s were a time of recession; the Gulf War; ratification of the Maastricht treaty (complete with anti-Europe backbenchers); the forced exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism ("Black Wednesday"); the privatisation of British Rail; the National Lottery; Sunday shopping; the "Back to Basics" campaign; the Dangerous Dogs Act; and the Cones Hotline. You should be in the zone now.
So it was that in 1990, the RSA Examinations Board which had offered vocational qualifications since the mid-1850s, relocated from London to brand new, purpose built premises in Coventry, complete with warehouse and print facilities. It also had barely a single meeting room – in one of RSA’s less prescient moments on the changing workplace, they predicted that meetings would become a thing of the past. And just a few years later, RSA Examinations Board and UCLES (the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate) merged to form OCR.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
Relocation out of London was to become something of a fashion, reaching a crescendo with Michael Lyons’ Review of Public Sector Relocations 2004 which led to a large part of the Department for Education and Skills moving to Sheffield, and to the consolidation of Coventry as something as a centre for education-related government including the Further Education Funding Council, soon to become the Learning and Skills Council, the Adult Learning Inspectorate and, eventually, the home of the new exams regulator, Ofqual.
The text of the full lecture exploring OCR’s RSA roots, and the changing face of the workplace, assessment and policy in vocational education over the last 25 years can be found here.
Paul Steer - Head of Policy
Paul Steer is Head of Policy at OCR, with responsibility for establishing OCR policy on educational matters, influencing external policy developments and managing stakeholder relations.
With over 20 years of experience in education and assessment, Paul chairs OCR’s Higher Education Forum and the Cambridge Maths UK Advisory Group. He writes regular columns for OCR publications and has led on a variety of developments within OCR including the establishment of OCR’s General Qualifications reform programme, and the development of many of OCR’s vocational qualifications.