Sixth-formers voice broad approval

24th January 2003 at 00:00
MIXING vocational and academic qualifications is common at Lutterworth grammar and community school.

About 150 of the 400 sixth-formers at the Leicestershire secondary are taking at least one vocational A-level alongside traditional A-levels.

The qualification, introduced at the same time as the AS and A2, has proved more popular than its forerunner, the advanced General National Vocational Qualification, which was worth two A-levels.

Parity of esteem has also attracted teenagers, says John Turner, head of sixth form.

He said: "There may have been a feeling that it was the easier option when they started but we soon disabuse them of that idea. In the first year, the vocational A-level is harder if anything."

The most popular course at the mixed-ability school is information technology. In fact IT vocational A-level is more popular than the IT AS-level. Mr Turner says the new qualifications have given students broader skills than before.

Matthew Halsey, 18, got 10 A* to C GCSEs and is taking leisure and recreation A-level alongside conventional PE and psychology A-levels.

He said: "I was originally thinking of becoming a gym instructor because I worked part-time in the local gym. But the course has shown me how many other options there are, from football coach to tour rep."

Matthew likes the fact that vocational A-levels rely more on coursework.

"For someone like me who does not like exams, this seems a better way of being assessed," he says. "Also it's much more hands on compared to PE A-level, for instance, which is all theory."

A larger number of higher education courses lead directly on from these vocational courses than from traditional A-levels. Event management HNDs or degrees at Leeds or Sheffield Hallam University have proved popular with Lutterworth students.

But are these the very "Mickey Mouse" degrees that education minister Margaret Hodge said should not be part of any university expansion?

Ms Hodge refused to specify which courses she was talking about, but Mr Turner certainly believes subjects such as Event Management have value. He said: "People have been critical of some of these courses because they do not require 2As and a B. But students who come through them have a lot of skills."

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