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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 13:43 GMT
End of line for work-based exams
students using computers
There has been a huge increase in GNVQ courses in schools
A timetable has been fixed for the withdrawal of an increasingly popular qualification in schools.

No more GNVQs will be taken after 2007, with less popular subjects ending two years earlier.

With alternatives still being debated, some schools had thought a temporary reprieve announced last year meant that GNVQs might be kept going.

But that is not so, insists the regulator, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).


But it acknowledges a "tension" in consultation on proposed alternatives, with schools stressing the need for "a valuable alternative route to raise achievement levels" among 16 year olds - even though GNVQs are not intended for that age group.

And it says the GNVQ full award also makes "an important contribution" towards government targets for school achievement - which are being missed nationally.

"Successor qualifications should also be included within performance table figures," says a QCA report.

Take-up of the qualification in schools has been booming in recent years, especially in information and communication technology (ICT) - which will be among the last subjects to go.

Success story

The intermediate GNVQ full awards are worth the equivalent of four GCSEs at higher grades.

This has led some people to wonder whether schools have adopted GNVQs in the pursuit of government targets for the proportion of students getting at least five good GCSEs or their vocational equivalents.

Thomas Telford City Technology College in Shropshire has made millions of pounds by selling to other schools an online course in the intermediate information and communication technology GNVQ.

The head teacher, Sir Kevin Satchwell, said: "If you are asking me to be blatantly honest, I would have to admit that there may be some schools in there that would be doing it to improve their examination profile.

"But I would think they are few and far between."

He said stripping out the qualification would reduce his school's 100% GCSE pass rate at grade C and above by just one percentage point.

"In effect it makes little or no difference to us now."


Official figures show that the success rate in the better GCSEs alone actually fell this year for the first time.

The limited continuing rise in school performance was sustained by GNVQs.

Even thought the timetable for ending GNVQs has now been fixed, debate on what might take their place is continuing.

Most likely alternatives are BTec First Diplomas and vocational GCSEs.

The QCA has already proposed giving weight in the school performance tables to a wider range of qualifications, and emphasising lower-level qualifications at the expense of top GCSE grades.

During the consultation, students expressed "a high level of concern about the perceived value of the qualification they had taken or were currently taking".

"They were concerned that the currency of their qualifications, already undermined by perceptions of it being for the less able, would be further undermined by its withdrawal," says the QCA report.

It has warned schools that they might need to transfer GNVQ entries to a different exam board if the one they have used in the past was withdrawing its syllabus first.

Skills gap

The Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Education and Skills, Phil Willis, has called for greater parity between vocational and academic routes into higher education.

"As long as failure on the academic climbing frame is seen as a preliminary to a vocational route, vocational education will be seen as a second choice by students and their parents," he said in a speech to an exam board seminar.

"It is a depressing fact that over 90% of people with two A-levels access higher education, while less than 50% with equivalent vocational skills do so.

"If we are serious about plugging the skills gap, we can not just measure what is easy to measure. Our vision must be much grander than that.

"We must move to a highly personalised curriculum, in which students can take their funding with them and become customers at schools, colleges and the workplace."

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