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