Government plans for a Technical Baccalaureate (Tech Bacc) have received a lukewarm welcome from the FE sector, amid questions about its substance and timing.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) described the new qualification, which will count towards college and sixth form league tables, as “a step in the right direction” towards raising the profile of vocational education.

To complete a Tech Bacc, learners would need a “high quality” level three vocational qualification, a core maths level three qualification, which would include AS -level maths, and an extended written project.

A government statement said that a list of approved vocational qualifications would be released near the end of the year, with further details on the maths element “in due course”.

The Tech Bacc will be introduced for courses beginning in September next year, but will not count towards performance tables until January 2017.

Brian Lightman, ASCL general secretary, said it could redress the imbalance between academic and vocational courses, but warned that introducing it as a performance indicator, rather than as a specific qualification, risked undermining its credibility.

“What we need is not a vocational alternative to university, but a genuine baccalaureate that encompasses a legitimate set of qualifications in their own right that can provide parallel routes to excellence leading to careers, further qualifications or higher education for students of all abilities,” he said.

“This is the way we will start to break down the false divide between academic and vocational qualifications that is so damaging to our economy.”

Deborah Ribchester, AoC senior policy manager, said: “We fear the September 2014 timetable for the introduction of this new performance measure may be too tight and are concerned that not all of the three key elements proposed have yet been finalised.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, agreed, adding that it was “worrying” that vocational and academic qualifications would continue to be separate.

She also called for the Tech Bacc to be allocated UCAS points, to create parity with A-levels for learners wanting to go to university.

Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said the new qualification represented a step towards ensuring vocational qualifications and A-levels were valued equally.

Chris Jones, chief executive at City & Guilds, which is updating its own trademarked TechBac qualification that it offered in the early 1990s, said: “It is essential that we provide young people with another option to a purely academic education. We need to equip them with both the vocational and rounded skills that employers need.”

Featured image caption: An FE Week cartoon from December when Labour accused the government of stealing its plans for a Tech Bacc

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