Vocational qualifications for school and college students will be lose their heavy assessment burden in moves to make them easier to understand and examine.
A Pounds 10 million Government programme to develop general national vocational qualifications was announced by education and employment minister Lord Henley this week. The work will draw widely on Sir Ron Dearing's review of 16-19 qualifications and the earlier review of GNVQs by John Capey, principal of Exeter College.
"Top priority will be given to implementing the recommendations in Dr Capey's review of GNVQ assessment," Lord Henley said. He pledged a five-point programme to improve the rigour of assessment and grading, raise national standards, find more effective ways of assessing key skills, support teachers in staff development and remove barriers to progress into higher education.
Dr Capey was swift to welcome Government backing for his key proposal - a more simple yet rigorous form of assessment. There will be a shift towards assessing only the units, of which there are 12 in a full advanced GNVQ (or applied A-level).
There were constant protests from colleges and school sixth forms throughout his review against the burden of assessing every element of work in each unit. "There is so much being assessed, it is like a munitions factory testing every bullet, so ending up with nothing to fire at the end."
He said if all his recommendations are supported that "teachers will find the whole process much more manageable and students will understand better what is expected of them".
The National Council for Vocational Qualifications and GNVQ awarding bodies will get Pounds 6.6m to improve GNVQ and quality assurance. The Further Education Development Agency will have Pounds 1.7m for a staff development and curriculum support programme. It will be expected to circulate models of good practice to all schools and colleges after the research.
A Pounds 300,000 contract to design an information database - to produce reliable materials on drop-out rates and achievement levels - has gone to Bath University. Around Pounds 600,000 will also be set aside to investigate ways of carrying out the Dearing recommendations.
Lord Henley stressed the need for simplicity. The level of jargon was attacked by an overwhelming number of respondents to the Capey review. The development programme must tackle this, he said.
"It is designed to ensure that GNVQs become qualifications that are rigorously assessed, able to be taught well in both schools and colleges and written in clear English so that teachers and students know exactly what is required of them."
Almost Pounds 1m will be used for programmes to meet employers' criticisms over the failure of many GNVQs either to provide adequate preparation for specific occupations or give a clear indication of wider progression routes to work.
Industry training organisations and others such as the Confederation of British Industry's teacher placement scheme will be invited to bid for development cash.