Give the vocational the status it deserves

13th August 2010 at 01:00

It came as no surprise that The TES again showed its true colours when reporting on vocational education ("The Diploma's future is in the balance", August 6). It is becoming a tradition for your paper to pay lip service to the importance of non-academic qualifications while demeaning their very existence.

Last week's analysis contained numerous unattributed quotations, then finished with a quote from a self-confessed opponent of Diplomas. Even the comments about functional skills being "rigorous" appeared negative. Shouldn't we encourage the raising of standards, rather than worrying about the effect on league tables?

The suggestion that the achievement rate on a BTEC course would be reduced from 97 per cent to 2 per cent by the inclusion of English, maths and ICT is a damning indictment of the education learners are at present receiving, and supports industry's concerns about poor literacy and numeracy.

This is why learners need functional skills. They are a serious attempt to address concerns highlighted in 2006 by the CBI's Working on the Three Rs report and they will, if treated seriously, rectify some of the failings of the present GCSEs. Many C-grade candidates have appalling spelling, punctuation and grammar and often cannot carry out simple calculations - as FE lecturers will confirm.

There are problems with the Diplomas, especially at Foundation level, but there is also some innovative work being carried out, especially where schools, colleges and employers have co-operated to provide inspirational programmes of study. It's a shame that The TES does not seem interested in reporting the positive aspects of a qualification that has great potential.

Martin Rolfe, Education consultant, Newton Abbot.

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