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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Cover Supervisor for school in Leeds

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education are looking fo...

BTEC / A Level Business StudiesTeacher (Full time)

£100 - £160 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: BTEC and...

Maths Intervention / Learning Mentor

£60 - £80 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: We are loo...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London