The Scottish Office has thrown its weight behind UK-wide efforts to improve the quality of vocational qualifications. An action plan designed to ensure the implementation of recommendations made earlier this year by Gordon Beaumont, a former industrialist, has been launched in Scotland in parallel to one south of the border.
Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, said this week that Scottish Vocational Qualifications, like National Vocational Qualifications, "provide the ideal work-based route by which individuals and employers can develop and enhance their skills".
SVQs will be at the core of the recently introduced Modern Apprenticeships which are delivered in Scotland through the Government's Skillseekers initiative (TESS, last week). The action plan would play an important role in further improving the quality of SVQs and NVQs, Mr Robertson said.
The Government has accepted Mr Beaumont's criticisms of the quality of assessment of courses and the costs involved. Employers' lead bodies should give a clearer indication of approaches to assessment favoured by members, but awarding authorities like Scotvec must remain accountable for decisions on certificates issued.
Where feasible, ministers are in favour of an element of external assessment of courses undertaken in the workplace.
These and other recommendations should be implemented in the next two years, the Government states. When the full programme of SVQs has been established there should be a period of stability.
The timing of the changes has been set to accord with the introduction of the Higher Still examinations, and the action plan reiterates the need for the relationship with post-Standard grade courses to be taken into account. In particular, Scotvec is to investigate how broader-based general SVQs can be developed to support industry-specific vocational qualifications.
In view of Government support for the marketing of qualifications, Scotvec is asked in the action plan to investigate why there is a proportionately lower take-up of SVQs than of NVQs and to come up with a solution.
Don Giles, Scotvec director with responsibility for accreditation, said some UK-wide companies wanted their trainees to have NVQs, but that trend was on the decline. With more than 20,000 enrolments, SVQs had increased by 56 per cent in a year. Scotvec had worked with the Government in response to the Beaumont report. "Our approach is very positive, and the initiatives suggested in the report are being fleshed out," Dr Giles said.