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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
'Four-in-one' exam reprieved
Vocational education
Pupils will have more vocational options
Vocational qualifications, which can be worth four GCSEs in school league tables, are likely to be reprieved until after the next general election.

The scrapping of Intermediate GNVQs, which were to be replaced by Vocational GCSEs, has been postponed for several years - with no date set for their final withdrawal.

The exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), says that the two-year qualification will continue until at least courses beginning in September 2004.

This means that the results will still be appearing in performance tables until at least autumn 2005.

The Department for Education says the re-think follows appeals from further education colleges to keep the qualification.

College appeal

A spokesperson suggested that the new Vocational GCSEs would become more schools-based exams, while colleges continued with the GNVQs.

And the government is said to have an open mind on when or whether the qualifications will be withdrawn.

The QCA said that the retention of Intermediate GNVQs was a "temporary measure to safeguard students until a wider range of vocational qualifications are available".

The Intermediate GNVQs which were set to disappear are deemed to be worth four individual GCSEs.

They were intended as college courses.

But there have been claims that they have been used by schools as a short cut to improving league table positions.

Secondary school league tables show the number of pupils getting five or more good GCSEs or - the bit that is often dropped in news reports - their vocational equivalents.

And when pupils have achieved an Intermediate GNVQ, they then need only a single good GCSE to cross this threshold.

It has been suggested that borderline pupils, particularly boys, were taking subjects such as GNVQ information technology to help achieve the league table standard of five good GCSEs.


This has been repeatedly denied by the government and the exams watchdog, which has defended the validity of how the qualification is rated.

They might also argue that the overall impact on league tables is minimal because so few students have been taking GNVQs.

Last year, only 41,000 Intermediate GNVQs were taken by students - less than half the number in the previous year - compared with almost 5.5 million GCSEs.

The information technology exam accounted for almost a fifth of those - up from 14% the previous year.

Some are going

The QCA says the withdrawal of the Part One GNVQs will still go ahead as planned, with the last of these one-year courses beginning in September 2002.

And the Vocational GCSEs which will replace them, in subjects such as information technology, business and tourism, will be introduced as planned for September 2002.

There have been concerns over the complexity of the vocational qualifications system - and fears that it might confuse pupils, parents and employers.

But the range of qualifications and the long lists of acronyms describing them show no sign of abating.

Under the revised plans, both the Intermediate GNVQs and Vocational GCSEs will be running together.

The QCA said the new GCSEs in vocational subjects were a direct replacement for the Part One GNVQs, made up of three course units.

Other new qualifications

But they were not a direct replacement for six-unit Foundation and Intermediate GNVQs.

Other new vocational qualifications such as BTec Nationals or OCR Nationals might be suitable replacements for those.

But as these were not nationally available yet and not necessarily in the same subject areas as the GNVQs, ministers had decided - on the QCA's advice - to postpone the withdrawal of the GNVQs.

The QCA said there was going to be another review of the whole structure of national qualifications.

See also:

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