September 2002, Vocational GCSEs will be available in schools and colleges. They will help to expand the choice for 14-year-olds, ensuring programmes are tailored more closely to individual needs.
Initially, VGCSEs are being developed in Science and also the seven subjects previously covered by part 1 GNVQs, namely Art amp; Design, Business, Engineering, Health amp; Social Care, ICT, Leisure amp; Tourism and Manufacturing. VGCSEs are quite different in their structure and assessment from traditional GCSEs.
They are set in a specific vocational context and develop students' understanding of how the relevant industrial sector operates. The courses will prepare students for study on a vocational course, or for employment or training. They could also progress to study for general qualifications.
The VGCSEs all comprise three equal units, and are equivalent to two GCSEs. The overall qualification will receive a double grade from A*A* to GG. Assessment is one-third external and two-thirds internal (coursework). Science comprises:
* Unit 1: Developing scientific skills (internal assessment): health and safety issues, and their practical skills.
* Unit 2: Science for the needs of society (external assessment): materials and living organisms.
* Unit 3: Science at work (internal assessment): finding out about jobs which use science, and practical and investigative work to make useful products, assemble and electrical or electronic device and monitor the growth development or response of a living organism.
The awarding bodies will be posting draft versions of their specifications and sample assessment materials on their websites in the near future, and will send the final versions to centres in January.
Schools will be able to meet their statutory requirement for science through the VGCSE in Science, even though it does not meet the national curriculum programme of study for science in full.
Fuller details about the qualification in general are currently found on the QCA website: www.qca.org.uknqframeworkvgcsecriteria.asp
The full science subject criteria are at www.qca.org.uknqframeworkvgcsecrit_sc.asp
David MacKay is principal officer for science at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555