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Tariff makes awards less vocational, warns Sykes

Vocational qualifications have been distorted by Government policy designed to raise their status, a new report says

Vocational qualifications have been distorted by Government policy designed to raise their status, a new report says

The points-based tariff intended to create equivalence with academic qualifications has reduced the practicality and appeal to students of vocational awards, the Sir Richard Sykes review of the English qualifications and assessment system said this week.

"Vocational qualifications have been `academicised' so that they are less useful for the student, the employer and further and higher education institutions," the report says.

"These are at odds both with actual occupational practices and with the need for these awards to be flexible and easily adaptable to the changing labour market."

The current tariff, published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is attacked as "defective" in that it invites people to infer equivalence between different qualifications when there is "no factual basis" for it.

The report, which was commissioned by the Conservative Party, says universities should have considerable input into A-level content and structure. It also recommends substantial deregulation of the school and college sectors, allowing accredited providers the freedom to develop their own qualifications.

It says that schools and colleges should publish information about qualifications achieved and the destinations of those taking 16 to 18 qualifications. The publication of average points scores achieved by college and school A-level students should cease.

The report, chaired by Sir Richard, who is chair of NHS London and the former rector of Imperial College, also recommends a university admissions test to supplement A-levels.

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