Lessons in hair and beauty replace GCSEs
Under the Skills for Life scheme, run with nearby Bexley college, students can opt for weekly lessons in building, business and hairdressing, in place of up to two GCSEs.
Fourteen-year-old Jay Singer, a pupil at the school in south-east London, is taking building as well as sport and recreation which will lead to a certificate.
He said: "These courses are more hands-on than lessons where you just sit in a classroom. I am a practical person so they suit me much more.
"My dad is a builder so my parents were also happy for me to do something practical to help me get a job later on."
Vicki Cousins, 15, one of a handful of higher-ability students taking a vocational college course, is doing hair and beauty as an "add-on" to her eight GCSEs.
She said: "I knew when I took my options that I wanted to be a hairdresser and I really enjoy the lessons."
Lack of funding means the scheme is open only to 25 pupils each year, generally those from less academic streams. But with greater government backing, Mr Telfor believes it could be expanded to include a much wider ability range.
He said: "I think the scheme works well, but it is expensive for the school. It costs pound;500 per pupil, on top of the normal curriculum costs.
"The Government is right to say schools have the flexibility to offer vocational studies but that is not enough. It has to turn the rhetoric into reality and that means more money to help schools run vocational courses."
A Government spokesman said pathfinder projects would identify the funding implications of the 14 to 19 strategy. A total of pound;46 million will be spent in the next three years on pathfinders and pound;12m will be made available in 200506 to kick-start the national roll-out of the 14 to 19 plan.
In 200204, pound;38m will be available to support teenagers studying at college. Further funding in 200305 will enable 30,000 14 to 16-year-olds to begin part-time courses in colleges.