The proposed general national vocational qualification mathematics units will be free-standing, separately accredited and be made available at levels 1, 2 and 3. The units will be standard-sized GNVQ units, carrying normal GNVQ equivalence at each of the different levels 1, 2 or 3. Thus, a unit at level 3 would be equivalent to one-sixth of an A-level, or three such units would be equivalent to an AS-level. At level 2, one of the new maths units would be equivalent to about two-thirds of a GCSE at C grade standard. Assessment of the units will be as for other GNVQ units.
Six new units, spanning the three levels, will be trialled in schools, sixth-form colleges and colleges of further education in the academic year 199798. The development programme will have to be approved by the new Qualification and Curriculum Authority when it comes into existence next October.
The idea for such units first originated from the SCAA mathematics and science consultative group, which includes Professor Alison Wolf. The development itself is being carried out by an external agency, and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications mathematics consultative group is monitoring this.
As a matter of policy, the development of the new units is taking place independently of current work in key skills, A and AS-level mathematics, and the rewriting of the GNVQ units in all the GNVQ programmes.
At a later stage, how these units sit in relation to these other initiatives will need to be looked at critically. Clearly, duplication will have to be avoided.
The appeal of these new units will be a parallel focus on principles and application, with external assessment reflecting the former and internal portfolio assessment reflecting the latter. One of the target groups will be those 16-plus students who need a fresh start to achieve a qualification broadly equivalent to GCSE mathematics at grade C.
The success of the units will ultimately depend on the currency given to them by employers and higher education institutions. The development programme will include consultation with all relevant interest groups (including the awarding bodies).
JACK ABRAMSKY Professional officer for mathematics School Curriculum and Assessment Authority Newcombe House 45 Notting Hill Gate London W11