Three new Btec courses now on offer at a Cheshire high school are "making a fantastic difference" to the motivation of many students, according to the deputy head.
Martin Howlett, of Verdin high, in Winsford, said that the 52 teenagers on courses in construction, engineering and dance were much more motivated than they would have been on traditional academic courses.
The pupils have been learning skills from quantitative surveying and basic joinery to electronic engineering and hydraulics since the courses were introduced for one in four pupils in year 10 this term.
Mr Howlett said: "The students can see a real purpose to their work. They can link the courses with what they are likely to be doing when they leave school. Many of them will go on to study these subjects for the next level Btec qualification at college."
Btec courses offer teenagers a general introduction to the subject, for example construction. Btec first diplomas are worth four GCSEs, while the dance certificate is worth two. However, the school rejects any suggestion that they are an easy option.
Students spend 10 hours a week on the diploma. One morning a week they catch a bus from the school to Mid-Cheshire college, 12 miles away, to study for the more vocational elements of their courses.
Those on the dance certificate spend roughly five hours a week on the course, all of it at the college.
Mr Howlett said: "The Btecs will still need a lot of work on them if they are to be developed into vocational diplomas, as these are separate qualifications, rather than cross-curricular courses.
But the Btec is definitely a move towards them. It's a case of making that move in small steps."