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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: vocational scaremongers

This week: vocational scaremongers

Here at TES towers, we have taken a dim view of the way schools have used vocational courses to bump up their league table scores. The craze for the GNVQ in ICT, for example, seemed a deeply cynical move by heads rather than a sign that entire year groups had suddenly decided they all wanted to work for Microsoft.

Yet the negative impact of vocational courses can be exaggerated. This week, various small-c and big-c conservatives were complaining that a generation of young people had been torn away from "serious" GCSEs to take courses in pastry-craft and cake-decorating.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said the figures showed that "Labour lied to a generation, falsely giving them the impression that qualifications that employers will all too often regard as irrelevant were 'equivalent' to GCSEs in rigorous subjects like maths and science."

Now, the proportion of pupils studying modern languages has, regrettably, dropped over the past decade. But the numbers doing English, maths, history, physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs actually went up, despite the rise in vocational courses.

And, when around 773,000 pupils were entered for maths GCSE last year, it also seems odd to be alarmist about the numbers taking pastry craft (seven), cake decorating (40) and sugar confection (one).

There is only one suitable punishment for the scaremongers: a compulsory level 2 NVQ in naughty step-sitting.

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