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EDITIONS
Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Work-oriented exams 'need improving'
construction course
Vocational opportunities are increasing
Ministers are concerned about the relatively low pass rate in exams in vocational subjects.


What we need to be doing is supplementing the GCSE with vocational qualifications in which we can have the same confidence

Qualifications chief, Sir William Stubbs
The problem is they want to encourage less-academic teenagers to go down that route in the hope of keeping them better engaged in their schooling.

But at the same time the vocational exams have to be tough enough to be held in the same esteem as those in the more straightforwardly academic subjects.

The overall pass rate in GCSEs this year was 97.9%. The pass rate in GNVQs was just over 70%.

Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Liverpool Professor said the GCSE was an exam which rewarded hard work and consistent application.


The Modern Apprenticeship option may be more appealing than continuing the straight academic route

Bryan Sanderson, Learning and Skills Counil

"For whatever reason, girls seem to do that more than boys."

He called for the "untidy" mixture of vocational qualifications to be cleared up and more closely tied to Modern Apprenticeships, which enable youngsters aged 16 or above to earn while they learn on the job.

That would build "good ladders from school to work" for boys who were not interested in academic study, he added.

Confidence issue

The head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Sir William Stubbs, said: "I think there's something in that."

"What we need to be doing is supplementing the GCSE with vocational qualifications in which we can have the same confidence.

"We haven't really got that at present."

The new Vocational GCSEs - courses begin this autumn - might begin to show some changes in a few years' time, he said.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) - which is now responsible for teenagers' learning over the age of 16 - is also urging those who do not want to study for A-levels to consider signing up for a Modern Apprenticeship.

There are currently 150 schemes on offer to youngsters aged between 16 and 24.

Most last two years and there are no set entry requirements.

Parents 'unsure'

A survey commissioned by the LSC found that just over half of parents were not aware of what was on offer to their children when they left school.

And many feared broaching the subject of further education and careers with their offspring, with 70% saying previous attempts to do so had led to arguments.

The LSC chairman, Bryan Sanderson, said: "It's a high-stress period when everything comes to a climax at results time.

"The LSC wants to ensure that young people are aware of the Modern Apprenticeship option which may be more appealing than continuing the straight academic route.

"Between the ages of 16 and 18, young people are faced with a lot of difficult decisions about their futures.

"Modern Apprenticeships are an option for young people to do something they enjoy, earn money and gain a qualification at the same time."

Quality issue

On the downside, a recent report by the Adult Learning Inspectorate said that as much as 60% of the on-the-job training available in England was inadequate.

Of more than 300 training providers inspected, one was "outstanding" - but more than half had poor leadership and management.

The report suggested that key skills - communication, numeracy and computer skills - were the biggest single cause of youngsters' failure to succeed in a Modern Apprenticeship.

They were unpopular with learners and training providers, so were often dropped from their courses.


GCSES

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See also:

28 Jun 01 | Education
01 May 01 | Education
27 Jun 00 | Education
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