Ministers to launch reformed NVQs

Lucy Ward

The Government is to relaunch a reformed version of the troubled national vocational qualifications next spring.

In a surprise announcement on Budget day, the Department for Education and Employment uncovered plans for a national campaign focusing on the qualifications.

The move comes after the Beaumont report - which found NVQs in need of reform - was taken up by Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry into 16-19 qualifications. A consultation on the Dearing report asked for views on the promotion and monitoring of qualifications.

Ministers have already announced that the National Council for Vocational Qualifications is to be merged with the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to form the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority, which will oversee vocational and academic qualifications.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Brunel University's centre for education and employment research, expects reform to centre on a change in the criteria determining which qualifications could be counted as NVQs.

In line with the Beaumont recommendations, the setting of standards will be separated for the first time from the design of qualifications. That would leave awarding bodies free to design qualifications, and would broaden the range coming under the NVQ umbrella.

Professor Smithers said: "This has potential as a step forward, but will require fresh thinking to ensure the new criteria are applied."

Judith Norrington, curriculum director at the Association of Colleges, said the relaunch was an acknowledgement that NVQs were inflexible and had failed to take off.

She welcomed moves in the DFEE paper not to transfer the role of promoting NVQs from NCVQ to the QNCA. Current arrangements, in which NCVQ promotes qualifications and monitors standards, have been widely criticised as creating a conflict of interest.

The NCVQ's #163;10 levy on each NVQ awarded will remain when the QNCA takes over, the DFEE says. Where the NCVQ has been allowed to put the money towards its own costs, however, the QNCA will have to distribute it to the bodies developing NVQ standards.

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