GNVQs are not second best

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
I found it difficult to recognise, in the report "Changes fail to redeem an ailing qualification" (TES, November 8), any signs of the general national vocational qualification courses as I know them.

If success in education is measured in terms of raising attainment, motivating young people to learn, and bringing out potential that would otherwise be wasted, then the GNVQ has been an outstanding success. No one could have predicted its ability to attract students to stay on in post-16 education, and to achieve where they might once have dropped out.

It's not often that we find a success story like this. Yet we still seem, as a nation, to reject the idea that anyone other than an academic elite can succeed. The critics of GNVQ have failed repeatedly to recognise its ability to unlock potential, and have been hung up on the flaws in its design - hardly surprising in a new qualification, but not fatal flaws in any sense.

The Capey review acknowledged the consensus among practitioners that the burden of assessment and administration was too great for both teachers and students. Pragmatically, it also accepts that external assessment must be seen as a robust and recognisable part of any qualification of this kind. This is uncontroversial.

The changes announced address the concerns of practitioners and ministers, and streamline the qualification. Far from "failing", it is in very good shape.

It's astonishing to find a major TES report knocking the qualification so overtly. I prefer to believe the evidence of my own experience, that substantial numbers of young people are continuing their studies and progressing to higher levels of qualifications.

"Second-best?" Not if education is about raising attainment and building self-esteem. "Seriously flawed"? That phrase might more accurately be applied to your analysis.

RACHEL TOTTON Whitby Community College Prospect Hill Whitby, North Yorkshire

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