Status of vocational qualifications to get boost

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The Independent Online
JUDITH JUDD

Education Editor

Vocational qualifications may get a new name under proposals being considered by the Government's chief adviser on exams, Sir Ron Dearing.

Sir Ron, whose report on education for 16- to 19-year-olds will be published next spring, is considering calling advanced vocational qualifications "applied A-levels".

The aim is to achieve higher status for vocational qualifications, which tend to be taken by pupils of lower academic ability than those studying A-levels.

At present 16-year-olds choose to study GNVQs - advanced vocational qualifications - or A-levels.

Sir Ron is looking at ways of bringing the two qualifications closer together by including common content for the first year of study and by insisting on "core skills" of literacy, numeracy and information technology.

A core first-year syllabus would be easy to introduce in subjects such as business, design, technology, sports studies and media studies where A-levels are already on offer.

Sir Ron is also considering changes in the way vocational qualifications are assessed. A series of reports has said that their assessment is unreliable because there are too few external checks on standards.

Sir Ron may propose that written external exams should be introduced for GNVQs.

His report is expected to advocate that all sixth-formers should take five subjects in their first year which might be a mixture of vocational and traditional A-level courses.

Some pupils might then go on to A-level while others might leave with their "intermediate" qualification.

The report is also likely to suggest a common certificate for A-level and vocational qualifications as another means of breaking down the barriers between the two. Teachers and employers have long been critical of A-level for being too narrow and specialised.

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