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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 05:59 GMT 06:59 UK
Vocational GCSEs target disaffected
A hairdresser cuts a young man's hair
The courses will give students work-related skills
Pupils in England and Wales will be able to take "vocational" GCSEs in subjects like engineering, manufacturing and information technology.

From 2002, vocational GCSEs will replace GNVQs in England and Wales as the non-academic alternative for pupils aged 14 to 16, the Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett, announced.

Traditional routes have failed to motivate and engage many bright and gifted youngsters

David Blunkett
As well as helping young people to gain work-related skills and qualifications, the new GCSEs will also be intended to appeal to disaffected pupils who have lost interest in academic lessons.

"Traditional routes have failed to motivate and engage many bright and gifted youngsters," said Mr Blunkett at the Skills Show in Birmingham.

"We need to think imaginatively now about using their talent and creativity in meeting the craft skills needs of the future."

The qualifications will run in parallel to conventional GCSEs, typically taken at the age of 16. But it is also anticipated that older teenagers could take the exams as a way of improving their employability.
David Blunkett
David Blunkett says the new qualifications will address the skills gap
The vocational GCSEs will seek to address a skills shortage in parts of industry and to ensure that young people have the skills needed for growing rather than declining sectors of the economy.

"A recent survey carried out for the skills task force found that 40% of all skills shortages are in craft and technician-type jobs, requiring high-level skills gained through substantial job-specific, work-based training," said Mr Blunkett.

The show will also be visited by the Prince of Wales, who will watch youngsters demonstrating skills ranging from fish frying and meat production to plumbing, hairdressing and robotics.

The exhibition, supported by The Prince's Trust, hopes to promote excellence in youngsters and help them secure high-quality jobs for the future.

After touring the centre, the Prince will make his second visit in three months to Balsall Heath, Birmingham, a regenerated inner city area that was once plagued by prostitution.

He will be shown around the St Paul's Community Foundation School, which was started in the 1970s in a terraced house.

Since then, the school has expanded and now teaches about 60 children and caters for 12 to 16-year-olds who have not settled in mainstream education.

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Education
Pledge to boost skills
04 Nov 99 | Education
Vocational exams gain in popularity
16 Feb 00 | Education
Boost for vocational training
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