Dreaded V word is forbidden by Ministry

Warwick Mansell

WHATEVER YOU do, do not mention the V word. This is the instruction to those marketing the new diplomas. Guidelines for producing advertising material for the work- related courses forbid the use of vocational.

The orders have been shown on the Department for Children, Schools and Families website.

They include a list of "key qualities" to be promoted about the new courses, including that they are inspiring, aspirational, exciting, high quality, robust and enduring.

The guidance says: "Market research shows that the word vocational is not seen by young people in a positive way in the context of the diploma. Words like work-relevant might be a better alternative."

Those promoting the diploma are also advised to steer clear of the word "specialisation," since research indicated that young people wanted to keep their options open.

Other words to avoid include occupational, modular, basic skills, realistic context and provides stretch. The advice also includes a set of "key messages" targeted at young people, parents, employers, schools and colleges, and higher education.

The recommendation not to describe the new qualifications as vocational encapsulates the biggest perceived problem facing the diplomas since they were mooted two years ago.

They were born out of the Tomlinson report into qualifications reform, which had proposed a diploma into which all courses, including GCSEs and A-levels would be subsumed.

In 2005, the Government decided against this course, introducing diplomas alongside existing exams and thus running the risk, it was widely alleged, of creating second class exams.

Vocational has been taken to mean less academic, hence the desire to avoid the word. Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, said the guidance spoke of a government more concerned with how reform was spun than with its contents.

"In common with much else that the Government has attempted," he said, "diplomas are looked at as a presentational job, rather than making sure that these things pay off for the people who will take them."

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