`Flawed' flagship

1st December 1995 at 00:00
The Government's flagship vocational qualifications remain seriously flawed despite extensive efforts to improve them, inspectors say in a report out today, writes Lucy Ward.

The survey of national vocational qualifications in further education colleges reveals teachers and students are still struggling to cope under a mass of complex documentation.

It underlines the urgent need for changes along the lines envisaged in the Capey report on an official inquiry into GNVQs - also published today (above).

The present assessment system is too unwieldy to be either efficient or effective, and is badly in need of refinement, according to the Further Education Funding Council inspectorate, which produced the study.

The report comes exactly a year after the publication of a previous FEFC report on the qualifications, and focuses on the areas identified as fundamentally lacking in the earlier survey.

It finds evidence of improvement in some areas, but reports progress is still far too slow in others.

Securing national standards through the assessment, verification and grading of students' work is proving to be a major problem for the awarding bodies and teachers alike.

Procedures involved remain detailed and time-consuming, and there is still no objective way of assuring standards within and between colleges. Staff need training if they are to develop robust and fair internal quality control systems, say the inspectors.

Meanwhile, external verifiers working on behalf of awarding bodies are still not consistent in their interpretation of GNVQ guidance and success rates in external tests vary considerably from one vocational area to another.

The FEFC report also identifies an alarming variation in retention rates between colleges, with a mere 30 per cent of students staying the course on some programmes.

Of the Advanced GNVQ students who began their courses in 1993, fewer than half had completed them by October 1995. The report calls for further investigation into the reasons for low completion rates, and for the publication of reliable data on retention and progressi

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