Vocational subjects being dropped by schools


Hundreds of vocational courses, which can count for several GCSEs, are being dropped by schools despite head teachers believing they are a valuable tool for pupils, according to a study by Opinion Matters and the Edge Foundation.

Courses will only be able to count as equivalent to one GCSE - not up to six as at present.

Under the current rules, the number of vocational equivalent courses has expanded from 15,000 in 2004 to 575,000 in 2010.

From January 2014, only the highest quality qualifications will be included in the tables, according to the government.

Vocational courses will only count as GCSE equivalents if they include external assessment, have been taught widely for two years, offer broad progression into occupational areas and are graded A*-G.

A maximum of two non-GCSEs will be allowed to count towards the five GCSE passes indicator.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects will not change, however, despite calls for more breadth. For example, despite calls for subjects such as religious education and music to be included in the EBacc, the Department for Education said Education Secretary Michael Gove was "minded to leave the subjects unchanged".

The EBacc is awarded to pupils achieving A*-C passes in maths, English, two science qualifications, a language and history or geography.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “This is a clear argument against the use of League Tables and the measures imposed by Government on what they regard as a benchmark for success. This simply forces schools to put huge amounts of effort into passing a narrow range of subjects for fear of dropping down the tables. 

“It is so important that we recognise achievement in vocational as well as academic subjects. If Michael Gove’s preference for replacing GCSEs with the English baccalaureate certificates goes ahead, this situation will only get worse.

“Schools also should not be measured as successful or otherwise on the narrow basis of five set subjects. Schools and teachers should be free to use their professional judgement to allow young people to follow the qualifications that are most likely to be beneficial to them on an individual basis."

Jan Hodges, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said: "We want high quality vocational qualifications to achieve parity alongside other educational routes for young people.
"Our concern is that in attempting to guarantee quality the government has used a sledgehammer to crack the nut.
"Schools are now being forced to drop valuable technical, practical and work-related courses or risk getting no credit for the provision."
Last year it was announced that 70 vocational qualifications would count towards a school’s GCSE table performance, down from almost 3,000.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Previously schools could do well in performance tables by offering poor-value qualifications, 94 per cent of which failed rigorous tests by experts to check their value to pupils’ future education and employment prospects.
"We strongly believe that vocational education needs transforming for young people to succeed in today’s job market, which is why we have overhauled the system to recognise only high quality vocational courses that lead directly to a skilled trade or profession."

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