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Pupils need balance of exams;Letter

YOUR article on the use of "vocational" GCSEs to motivate disaffected 14-year-olds is good news. What is less welcome is the implication - unsupported by evidence - that the part one GNVQ (which is worth two GCSEs) is less popular and less successful.

This denies the achievements of thousands of pupils and many teachers around the country.

The part one GNVQ - conceived by Sir Ron Dearing as a broadly vocational qualification for all abilities at key stage 4 - has become generally available for the first time this year. Even as a pilot, the new qualification has involved 611 schools, nearly all local education authorities and pupils across the whole ability range. A further 300 schools are taking it up this year. It integrates the key skills of communication, number application and information technology within highly practical courses designed to appeal to pupils and employers.

It will also benefit from the introduction next September of the clearer, more streamlined specifications and assessment schemes of the new model GNVQ.

A balanced and informed view of the part one GNVQ can be found in Office for Standards in Education independent evaluation reports since 1997.

These reports describe in very positive terms the motivation and achievement that inspectors have seen in pupils of all abilities and the beneficial impact on their ability to cope with the demands of working independently in post-16 education. As your leader correctly observes, initiatives that we identify only with "problem children" will "die the death".

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is not in the business of promoting some qualifications at the expense of others. Different qualifications offer a choice of approach. Good schools and teachers can make the most of this choice, turning examination specifications into high quality, motivating courses, leading to improved opportunities.

Keith Weller

Head of Qualification Division

Qualifications and Curriculum

Authority

29 Bolton Street, London W1Y

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