Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 08:52 GMT


Vocational courses fail to expand

GNVQs offer a vocational equivalent to A-levels

The increase in students entering vocational courses appears to have stalled.

This year's General National Vocational Qualifications results - intended as vocational equivalents of GCSE and A-levels - show that the total number of students entering the qualifications has fallen.

This year's total of almost 186,000 students is a reduction of 6% on last year. But the figure of more than 92,000 students successfully completing GNVQ courses is a slight increase.

[ image: GNVQ courses focus on work-related skills such as information technology]
GNVQ courses focus on work-related skills such as information technology
Based on figures to the end of July, students completing GNVQ courses within the expected one or two years has risen from 45.8% to 49.5%.

Unpublished data up to September will push the percentage higher - but it still means that about half the people who start courses do not finish them.

The Education Minister Baroness Blackstone highlighted the success of students using GNVQs as a route into higher education.

"They are proving a very successful passport to higher education and employment, with 95% of the 24,000 advanced GNVQ students who applied to higher education this year receiving offers of places.

Identity problem

"The government is determined to build on this impressive record by seeking at every opportunity to strengthen vocational-based qualifications," she said.

But Professor Alan Smithers, who heads the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Liverpool University, said there was still an identity problem.

"It is not clear what an advanced level GNVQ is for.

"Is it the flagship qualification for applied education, or is it what you do if you don't think you'll be able to get an A-level?

"That would reinforce the old attitude that applied education is second best."

Work related

The GNVQ system, launched six years ago, was intended as a flexible, vocational alternative to traditional academic exam courses.

Since 1992, 340,000 students have passed GNVQs, 130,000 of which were at advanced level.

The courses are usually in work-related subjects, such as business, catering, media, information technology and leisure and tourism.

Students are assessed during the course rather than at the end, with both coursework and external tests needing to be passed.

The qualification has three levels, graded as pass, merit or distinction at all levels:

  • Foundation, which is equivalent to four GCSEs at grades D-G
  • Intermediate, which is equivalent to four GCSEs at grades A-C
  • Advanced, which is equivalent to four A-levels

    Advanced options | Search tips

    Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

  • Education Contents

    Hot Topics
    UK Systems
    League Tables

    Relevant Stories

    28 Oct 98 | Education
    Targeting success

    15 Sep 98 | Education
    Rapid response for re-skilling unemployed

    19 May 98 | England and Wales
    Further education

    Internet Links

    Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

    Department for Education and Employment

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

    In this section

    'Golden hellos' fail to attract new teachers

    Children join online Parliament

    Pupils 'too ignorant to vote'

    Red tape toolkit 'not enough'

    Poor report for teacher training consortium

    Specialist schools' results triumph

    Ex-headmaster guilty of more sex charges

    Blunkett welcomes Dyke's education commitment

    Web funding for specialist teachers

    Local authorities call for Woodhead's sacking

    Dyslexic pensioner wins PhD

    Armed forces children need school help

    Black pupils 'need better-trained teachers'

    College 'is not cool'