A-levels are not the be-all and end-all

3rd August 2007 at 01:00
The creation of a Vocational Results Day, as reported on page 3, has to go down as one of the best public relations exercises to sell skills based learning and qualifications to the wider public in Wales since efforts began.

Convincing a generation set in their ways that the A-level is not the be-all and end-all of educational achievement will not happen overnight. However, this canny move on behalf of fforwm is one welcome step forward.

Now all we need is for the cameras to roll and photographers to get snapping in colleges and schools next Thursday for the message to get outside of education circles: vocationally led education is here to stay like it or not.

Direction, clarity and communication in the educational agenda are essential at such a critical time in the delivery of work-led learning in schools and colleges. Let's hope long-awaited recognition of the achievements of Btec students next Thursday will give it a boost.

Not only has the vocational Btec had to battle against the snobbery associated with the A-level, but it has also suffered from its own complexity. An A-level is an A-level but a Btec level 3 and its different awards, diplomas and certificates are not so easily explained or reported.

The relentless documents and jargon that came with the arrival of the Welsh Baccalaureate and 14-19 Learning Pathways agenda hasn't helped as schools move towards the goals set by Jane Davidson, the former education minister.

Consequently, it is a real eye-opener to learn how many more pupils are taking Btec qualifications in schools compared to 2002-03. It is also extremely telling when Paul Croke, principal of Yale College in Wrexham, talks about "seeing increasing numbers taking the Btec route to university or employment".

If the public does not hear about this on the evening news, people are going to remain ignorant, with the A-level, and yet another rise in pass rates, the only thing they hear about on results day.

The idea of Vocational Results Day must be applauded, although it must be said it has come very late.

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