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GNVQ New Alternatives

The Gnvq in ICT has come to an end, so what's next? Introduced in 2004, Edexcel's Diploma in Digital Applications (DiDA) is just one option. From September 2006, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA's (OCR) revised Level 2 Nationals in ICT, which has now officially been accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA); and iMedia, has been available to schools seeking an alternative to the GNVQ.

Recognising the need to have a GNVQ replacement qualification, we volunteered to become an Edexcel DiDA pilot centre. DiDA sounded exciting but in practice we found its student tasks - Summative Project Briefs (SPBs) - were too difficult for most students. Nearly all struggled with the volume of assessment evidence required. Most schools offering DiDA have now realised that it is unrealistic to expect students to complete the four GCSE model in two years and will offer either the Award (one unit) or the Certificate (two units) from September.

My main concern with DiDA is its assessment framework. Students must create digital documents/products that are fit for a specific audience and grading is determined by how well a student can structure the digital document, compose relevant content and use appropriate language. This means a disproportionate amount of lesson time is spent on developing content, rather than higher level ICT skills. To achieve quick, simple solutions to SPB activities, most schools avoid using time-consuming professional, creative applications. The Adobe Associate Certificate attached to DiDA has not been taken up as most schools have failed to gain the teacher expertise required to deliver the tasks.

Edexcel continues to fine-tune DiDA. SPBs released from September 2005 onwards will now be valid for four moderation windows, giving students another chance if they fail. We believe DiDA is best suited to students who have good ICT and literacy skills, can work independently and are able to manage large-scale projects.

More recently, OCR has produced two exciting qualifications: the revised Level 2 Nationals in ICT and iMedia. Lewisham CLC is preparing teachers from a number of local schools to launch these qualifications in September 2006.

The Nationals in ICT were developed in collaboration with IT professionals and are relevant to today's workplace. Centres can pick and choose from 23 units to combine into a one, two, three or four GCSE qualification, offering flexibility in matching the course to the student. The qualification provides an even coverage of ICT skills related to the business, technical and creative industries.

Each unit in the Nationals in ICT focuses on one generic application area. Students concentrate on one software package at a time. It is also possible to gather chosen units under an umbrella assignment to avoid duplication of work. The advantage of the Nationals is that students can progress through a common path with stop-off points at which they can claim GCSE units. So, highly motivated students can progress through the four GCSE model, whereas another student may stop at one GCSE.

The Nationals' assessment framework clearly sets out what is expected in terms of ICT skills, and uses the fit-for-audience criteria as a way of distinguishing between pass and distinction levels. The qualification is 100 per cent coursework and schools can submit assignments in either a digital- or paper-based format.

Addressing a creative skills gap, newcomer OCR iMedia has been backed by the creative sector and gaming industry. iMedia is available at Levels 2 and 3 and is also 100 per cent coursework. Assessment takes the form of practical activities which are locally assessed by the school and externally moderated by OCR. Schools can use either an assignment set by OCR or one that has been devised locally.

IMedia is seen as the creative qualification that gives students the right skills for jobs as web designers, graphic artists, multimedia producers, animators, sound designers and editors, video producers and games designers. It has an excellent assessment framework, is simple to use and acts as a checklist for the student.

The new breed of GNVQ alternatives are all well worth exploring. Although DiDA is best suited to students who can work on their own initiative and already possess sound ICT and literacy skills, the Nationals and iMedia suit students with a variety of skill levels and give UK students the credentials necessary to maintain our footing as a global leader in the IT and creative industries.

Zali Collymore-Hussein is the centre manager at Lewisham City Learning Centre (CLC). Lewisham CLC can offer hands-on support to teachers for the three qualifications discussed in the article, and you can contact Zali on 020-8699 2529 or at zalihe@lewisham-clc.org.uk