Most qualifications are publicly mauled from time to time, but the treatment recently meted out to general national vocational qualifications was pretty savage by any standard. The qualification, which was criticised for being ill-conceived because some people now think it is irrelevant, badly needs a credibility boost.
Sue Warr and Peter Morrissey's excellent Advanced Media: Communication and Production will hardly stem the tide of criticism, but it will provide ample proof of the possibilities offered by at least one advanced GNVQ course.
Following a brief but helpful introduction to the nature and intentions of GNVQ, the authors suggest a study programme to cover the requisite evidence indicators. This is given in the book's eight main sections, each of which relates to the eight mandatory units in the award.
The sections are made up of chapters that correspond to individual elements - "Explore the relationship between media audiences", "Review and evaluate audio productions" and the like. Each chapter contains appropriate case studies, activities and evidence assignments.
There are also several end-of-unit tests, plus evidence-assignment tracking sheets for the three compulsory key skills. And, at the last, useful supplements on health and safety, and legal and ethical issues. The authors cannot be faulted for comprehensiveness.
Nor is quality in question. As well as being clearly written, the book offers an abundance of ideas in all areas, qualities that should attract not only teachers of media studies at GNVQ but also at A-level. Chapter 29, "Investigate ownership and control in media industries", proves the point. Detailed and precise (though occasionally, albeit unavoidably, out-of-date) descriptions of the workings and interests of all manner of media organisations are interspersed with excellent activities (investigate a local multiplex, consider the economic and political dangers inherent in extensive cross-media ownership), and equally interesting case studies.
Other of the more theoretical chapters - on genre, media representations and audiences - are likewise impressive, while those that deal with such practical matters as producing advertisements and editing audio and moving image products are precise, detailed and demanding without being intimidating. And everywhere there are cross-references between areas and activities which will be helpful to both teachers and students, and essential in a syllabus that seeks to marry theory with practice.
The perfect textbook, therefore? Not entirely. Some of the pictures could be better: there's not much point in asking students to comment on a postage stamp-size, black and white reproduction of Turner's "Hannibal Crossing the Alps", while too many of the photographs are more conventional than instructive: why show Trevor McDonald when the text refers to Al Jolson's grotesque Negro stereotype? These are mere niggles, though, when set beside an index that either mislocates subjects or omits them altogether. A shame, but no more; this is still a book that ranks with the very best of its kind.