Government shake-up for vocational qualifications

 

Just 70 vocational qualifications will count towards a school's GCSE performance in league tables in future - a cut from more than 3,000 under the current system.

The move is part of an attempt by the Government to stop schools encouraging youngsters to take qualifications that boost their league table position but do not help a pupil's prospects.

Ministers today confirmed that just 125 vocational qualifications will be included from 2014. Of these, only 70 will count towards the main performance measure - the percentage of pupils getting at least five Cs at GCSE, including English and maths.

The other 55 will count in the tables, but will not contribute towards the main measure.

Plans to slash the numbers of “equivalent” qualifications were first announced by ministers last year following Professor Alison Wolf's review of vocational education.

Under the current system, 3,175 vocational or “equivalent” courses count in the league tables, and some of these are multiple GCSEs.

For example, a level 2 BTEC in horse care, one of the qualifications to be cut from the new style tables, is worth four GCSEs at grade C or higher.

The new system will see every qualification count equally in the tables.

Among the others that will not be included in the future are the Level 1 certificate in practical office skills (worth two GCSEs), the BTEC level 2 extended certificate in fish husbandry (worth two GCSEs) and the level 2 certificate in nail technology services (worth two GCSEs).

Qualifications that will still count include many of the diplomas introduced by the last government and a number of BTECs and OCR Nationals covering areas such as performing arts, sport, health and social care, media, music and engineering.

Some of the courses which will count in the tables are still subject to further review because they are either too new, or still have to demonstrate they have all the characteristics needed to be included, the Department for Education said.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “The weaknesses in our current system were laid bare by Professor Wolf's incisive and far-reaching review. The changes we are making will take time but will transform the lives of young people.

“For too long the system has been devalued by attempts to pretend that all qualifications are intrinsically the same. Young people have taken courses that have led nowhere.”

Qualifications that do not meet the set standards can still be offered by schools but will not count in the league tables.

Prof Wolf said there had been a 40-fold increase in the number of vocational qualifications being taught in schools in just five or six years.

“It would be lovely to think that was just because these were qualifications that were good for children but some of that is chasing league table points,” she told BBC Radio 4's Today.

“There are a number of schools which are going out there and basically trying to pile up GCSE-equivalent points.”

Even after the reforms, the UK was likely to remain the European country which awarded the most vocational qualifications to 14-16-year-olds, she pointed out.

“I am very keen on vocational qualifications but they need to be good ones, and ones that employers recognise and value. The most important thing the Government can do is make clear to people which vocational qualifications and which practical and applied qualifications are really valuable.”

Former education secretary David Blunkett said it was “entirely wrong” if schools were deliberately seeking to skew league tables but warned that the tone of reforms risked discrediting important vocational qualifications.

“If there's a problem, let's root it out. But let's encourage youngsters to mix and match. I got my qualifications by getting a vocational qualification in business studies and going to evening classes to get A-levels at the same time.

“By all means slim them down but do not send the message out that this is a wholesale trashing of what was there and that somehow vocational education has been downgraded.

“If you do that, you will do us a very grave disservice.”

He questioned whether schools really were offering some of the subjects being reported.

“I don't know anybody in my neck of the woods who takes horse care. I think the only people in my constituency who have horses are the police” he said.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "Labour will support attempts to maintain rigour in our qualification system. It is not right that some young people are told they can get a qualification which won't be valued by universities, colleges or employers.

"However, we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. As employers like JCB have said, the Government is undermining important subjects like the engineering diploma.

"However, the Tory-led Government should talk to teachers, parents and pupils rather than rushing a decision. We saw with the cancellation of the schools building programme, how ill-thought-through changes can cause chaos.

"Practical and vocational skills are important to our economic success and the Government need to make sure they don't devalue them."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The Government seems determined to construct a rigid system of incentives that constrains and crowds out the professional and moral judgment of teachers.

"Playing with the equivalencies of vocational qualifications is part of the problem rather than the solution. A system which placed more trust in teachers would help them make judgments that are right for children rather than the school's position in a league table. Instead, the approach is an escalation of restrictions.

"Schools must focus on what is right for every individual pupil, not on their standing in the league tables. However, when your school can be closed and your staff sacked for a fall in league table standings, it can be hard to do so.

"Vocational qualifications are an essential part of the mix, and should not be treated as second-class courses. Of course, they need to be rigorous and they need to be relevant to the expectations of employers."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Russell Brand discusses Trident and the NHS in an episode of the The Trews.
news
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
film
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Student Support Assistants - Part Time & Full Time

£14600 - £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are passionate about sup...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore