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Schools drop vocational qualifications after league table change

Published

Just a year after the decision to strip the majority of vocational qualifications from performance tables, schools are axing practical training courses despite recognition by school leaders of their value to learners.

New research*, supported by the Edge Foundation, an independent education charity, and carried out by think tank IPPR, shows that 60 per cent of schools are either planning to cut the provision of vocational qualifications or have already done so. This is despite 85 per cent of school leaders agreeing that vocational qualifications are valuable for their students.

The report also reiterated concerns that the removal of some qualifications from performance tables, such as ASDAN's Certificate of Personal Effectiveness, will reduce achievement in traditional academic qualifications, such as English and Maths GCSE.

Download the full report: The Impact of League Table Reform on Vocational Education in Schools

In January 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered 96 per cent of GCSE-equivalent vocational qualifications be stripped from school league tables, following recommendations made in the Wolf Report. When interviewed, two thirds (66 per cent) of the senior school leaders whose schools were cutting vocational provisions admitted that the decision had been taken as a result of the changes to the school performance tables. Just 15 per cent said that the reason for reducing the number of vocational courses was that they did not believe that the courses were valuable.

By contrast, four in five (79 per cent) senior teachers interviewed agreed that vocational qualifications provided a firm foundation for school leavers to join the world of work. Not only that, over two thirds (69 per cent) agreed that vocational qualifications were useful not only for those leaving school aged 16 but ‘offer a strong foundation for further study or training’.

Jan Hodges, CEO of the Edge Foundation, which supported the research, said: “We want high quality vocational qualifications to achieve parity alongside other educational routes for young people. Our concern is that in attempting to guarantee quality the Government has used a sledgehammer to crack the nut. Schools are now being forced to drop valuable technical, practical and work-related courses or risk getting no credit for the provision.” 

28 January 2013

* Survey of 252 senior teaching leaders in English state schools in England carried out by Opinion Matters between 10th and 21st December, 2012.