Vocational quals counted out

Concern has been raised at the government’s expulsion of thousands of qualifications from school league tables.

While stating that its members would welcome the strengthening of vocational education, the Association of Colleges (AoC) believes it should not be allowed to result in less 14 to 15 year-olds being exposed to vocational qualifications.

It comes after the education secretary, Michael Gove, announced that the number of vocational qualifications that will count towards a school’s GCSE performance in league tables is being cut from 3,000 to 70.

Just 125 vocational qualifications will be included from 2014 and only 70 will count towards the main performance measure – the percentage of pupils getting five A* to Cs at GCSE, including English and maths. The other 55 will count in the tables, but will not contribute towards the main measure.

It is an attempt to stop schools encouraging youngsters to take qualifications that boost league table position, but do not help prospects, and follows recommendations made in a report by Professor Alison Wolf last year.

An AoC spokesperson said: “Colleges will welcome the implicit endorsement that provision of vocational education needs to be strengthened to ensure that high standards are maintained in all types of institutions, including schools, in order to ensure the delivery of high quality vocational provision that our young people need in order to secure satisfying and fulfilling future employment.”

Currently, there are 63,000 14 to 15-year-olds enrolled in a college; with 3,500 full-time and 59,000 part-time.

The AoC spokesperson added: “Evidence has shown that colleges are best-equipped to deliver high quality vocational education and we believe that all 14-year-olds should have the opportunity to attend their local college.

“Colleges were pleased with the Wolf Report’s support for colleges looking to enrol more 14-year-olds onto full-time courses.

“Alison Wolf was insistent as to the value of high quality vocational provision for young people.

“Whilst the announcement confirms that commitment, we would be concerned if it resulted in fewer young people who would benefit from an early exposure to vocational learning having that opportunity.

“Ultimately, we believe that colleges should take centre stage in the delivery of vocational education and become hubs of vocational excellence, using their expertise and resources to support provision in their locality.

“And we are in discussion with the Department for Education to make this intention a reality.”

The Department for Education said some of the qualifications still to be included are subject to future review and schools will remain free to offer any other qualification accredited and approved for study by 14- to 16-year-olds.