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Pilot schools give 'motivating' new course the thumbs-up

Allen Edwards gets reactions to the new exam from two pilot schools in Coventry.

"We are elated with our results. The nature of the course has been a motivating factor," said David Kershaw, head of Coundon Court school in Coventry.

"Students have visited factories, such as the Jaguar plant, been very interested and come back and learned more about what they have seen."

Mr Kershaw was talking, enthusiastically, about the new GNVQ part one exam which his school has helped to develop during the past two years. Coundon Court is one of 250 schools across the country to participate in the six-subject pilot scheme.

The results, he said, were excellent. All 64 taking the intermediate level got full accreditation as did all four pupils who took the foundation level.

But he denied that the courses in business and health were an easy option, or that the exam would become a "dustbin" qualification.

Mr Kershaw agreed there could be a potential for a two-tier system to develop if all the less- academic students in a school were offered GNVQs, but Coundon Court had "resisted this tooth and nail" by selling it to parents and students as a prestigious qualification that was an alternative to GCSE. Mr Kershaw said that the group of students who opted for GNVQs had included more than its fair share of the more able.

Ruth Westbrook, head of Tile Hill Wood in Coventry, said 30 of the 35 young people taking the intermediate level gained full accreditation.

She was not opposed to some students taking mainly GNVQs rather than GCSEs, although her students took GNVQs in addition to their GCSEs.

GNVQ students would not become a bottom stream, she insisted, because the courses were a "high-quality alternative" that used a different approach, which suited some students more than others.

CONFUSED? The General National Vocational Qualification now comes in three flavours. Until this year it was largely a sixth-form pursuit. Students could take an "advanced" version, worth two A-levels, or the "intermediate" GNVQ, equivalent to five good passes at GCSE.

The new GNVQ part one is aimed at Year 11. And this is where it gets complicated. A part one can itself come in "intermediate" form, worth two higher grade GCSEs, or as a "foundation" GNVQ, worth two grades D-G. Seasoned observers will know there is no part two. None is expected.

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