Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:00 UK

Council defends 'bus' certificate

AQA certificate for using public transport
AQA says the ability of the child must be matched to the correct activity

A council has defended awarding young people on a summer scheme a certificate for catching a bus.

Participants in Bury Council's BRAG get the "using public transport" award as part of a programme to encourage self-reliance, the council said.

The family of one 15-year-old who took part branded the award "ridiculous".

The AQA exam board, which issues the certificates, said they were usually aimed at students who may not be able to access formal qualifications.

Route planning

Bobby McHale, 15, who is expected to achieve top marks in his GCSEs, was among those given the certificate on the BRAG (Bury and Rochdale Active Generation) scheme.

Bobby's father, Andy Loynes, said he was "surprised" when he saw his son's award.

For students with very specific needs, something as simple as catching the bus would be a genuine achievement, while for other students, it would not be an appropriate unit to take
AQA spokeswoman

"The scheme is good and many of the kids have enjoyed themselves but this certificate is ridiculous - it seems to have been done so targets can be met," he said.

But the council said the award is used to give credit for students' achievements in the BRAG programme and "supports their school portfolio".

"It's not just about sitting on a bus, it's about reading timetables properly and planning the best route, which is behind the whole idea of encouraging self-reliance," a spokesman said.

The Use of Public Transport Award is one of a series of units created by the Assessment and Qualifications' Alliance (AQA).

Special education

An AQA spokeswoman said the awards were aimed at special education establishments, pupil referral units, penal institutions and hospital education services.

"It can be used with students of any ability and of any age however we would expect centres to ensure that candidates are entered for units that are appropriate to their needs and abilities," she said.

"For students with very specific needs, something as simple as catching the bus would be a genuine achievement, while for other students, it would not be an appropriate unit to take."

The AQA said the Unit Award Scheme had successfully been used in a scheme with charity Centrepoint, to provide skills and training for homeless young people.



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