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Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Are vocational qualifications valuable?

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Thousands of vocational courses are to be excluded from school league tables in England because the government says under-performing schools are relying on subjects of "little academic worth".

Christopher McShane, head teacher of Winton School in Hampshire, described his school as having an overall lower-ability intake and made the case for the value of vocational qualifications.

Mr McShane told the Today programme's John Humphrys that the school "put their students first" by adhering to an "appropriate curriculum" for each student.

He believed that these changes meant that "we're in danger of undermining valuable qualifications which allow students to find a pathway through."

Professor Alison Wolf, author of the government's review into vocational education, said the only sensible approach is to get a "broad-based education" equipped with skills and qualifications that employers recognize.

She maintained that, at 13, pupils "should not be making irreversible decisions" which may result in doors bring "slammed in their faces" in later life.

She said the number of vocational qualifications had increased "40 fold" in recent years and that some of these courses are "unquestionably about schools chasing league table points".

David Blunkett, former education secretary who in 2000 introduced Labour's proposals for increasing the value of vocational education and qualifications, said he disapproved of the whole climate being created around vocational subjects.

He insisted that politicians and experts should not send the message that this is "wholesale trashing" and a downgrading of vocational education.

He went on to say that while he agreed with slimming down the number of vocational subjects, the system should still "reward people who have a vocational bent."


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