Advanced GNVQs set high standards

20th June 1997 at 01:00
Ben Russell's article on vocational A-levels (general national vocational qualifications) was an unnecessarily critical attack, demoralising students who are completing or about to take up GNVQs (TES, June 6) .

GNVQs have been introduced as an attractive vocational alternative to the traditional academic A-levels following Sir Ron Dearing's review of the 16 to 19 curriculum.

It is true that the BOS (bums on seats) principle is operating in many post-16 institutions, especially in the areas of business, leisure and tourism and health and social care.

The high drop-out rate suggests that standards are high and that the GNVQ Advanced Certificate is indeed equivalent to two passes at A-level (certainly in the sciences).

The criteria and syllabus specifications for GNVQs are very rigorous to ensure that standards are consistent nationally.

The major problems of the old Business and Technology Education Council National Diploma were that standards varied from college to college, giving the qualification a lower status than the externally assessed A-levels.

Essential skills for work such as time-management, information technology, communication and numeracy are integral to achieving a GNVQ qualification.

In science, the three subjects - physics, chemistry and biology - are covered equally to ensure that the students gain a good general background in the sciences. The syllabus content is linked to industrial application, thus preparing the student for the world of work. The high drop-out rate is probably due to poor recruitment and inadequate staff training for the delivery of GNVQs.

The current problems of the cumbersome nature of the syllabus and assessment procedures are being addressed by the awarding bodies and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, and, if allowed to progress, the GNVQs should become a viable vocational alternative to the traditional A-levels.

DR FARA GIBBS Lecturer in science Barnfield College Luton Bedfordshire

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today