New title to cross academic divide

18th February 2000 at 00:00
WORK-RELATED qualifications for sixthformers are to be renamed Vocational A-levels, Education Secretary David Blunkett announced this week.

Teachers' leaders welcomed the rebranding as a step towards equality between vocational and academic qualifications.

However, headteachers' unions criticised Mr Blunkett for not going far enough and said he had missed an opportunity to unite the two qualification systems.

From September, new-style six-unit advanced level General National Vocational Qualifications will be known as Vocational A-levels. The new name comes after a radical redesign of both advanced GNVQ and A-level systems which will increase the similarity between the two systems from September.

A National Union of Teachers spokeswoman said: "If this new name is another stepping stone towards equality between vocational and academic qualifications then we welcome it.

"Ministers are trying to overcome the mistaken public attitude that vocational qualification are in some way second-class.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said: "I would have preferred simply to call them advanced levels but this was clearly a step too far for ministers."

Arthur de Caux, senior assistant secretary at the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "All headteachers' groups have consistently advised the Government to simply call GNVQ an advanced-level qualification.

"I do not understand why they have introduced an artificial divide between so-called academic and vocational qualifications.

"This new name will not encourage anybody to mix and match subjects."

All new advanced GNVQ specifications have been written to a more demanding standard; the proportion of external testing has been increased to around a third; they will be graded on an A to E scale like A-levels and candidates will only be allowed to resit each module once, said a spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment.

Leader, 16

David Blunkett, FE Focus, III

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