Vocational courses criticised

MANY new sixth-form vocational courses introduced on the insistence of the Government are barely adequate, according to a report from Her Majesty's Inspectors.

The report, which examines a pilot of General National Vocational Qualifications in 115 schools and colleges, says the assessment of the courses needs to be more tightly controlled. Some tests were too trivial, others were too hard.

The Government wants the courses to provide a high quality vocational alternative to A-levels and says one in four 16-year-olds should be starting them by 1996. Sixth-formers in the pilot could choose courses at two levels, Intermediate, the equivalent of between four and five GCSEs, and Advanced, the equivalent of two A-levels.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, said in the summer that the latter should be known as vocational A-levels to help ensure they had equal status.

The inspectors found the standard of vocational A-levels was satisfactory but 'at Intermediate level, standards of work were very variable and, overall, barely satisfactory'.

The report, by the Office for Standards in Education, suggests that, while some of those awarded merit at Intermediate level did good work, many who passed did not deserve to.

Mr Patten yesterday welcomed the report and promised to iron out the problems.

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