Stop pretending everything is rosy

12th April 1996 at 01:00
Anne Smith (FE Focus, TES, March 29) takes me to task for suggesting that general national vocational qualifications, as currently constituted, are taken mainly by those who can't do A-levels, and are second-rate. Both statements, however, follow from the evidence.

Professor Alison Wolf, among others, has shown that, on average, the GCSE grades of students doing A-levels are very much better than the GCSE grades of students doing GNVQs. It seems a reasonable inference, therefore, that most of those with a chance of going forward to A-levels do so, and for those without that chance GNVQs remain an option.

A number of official reports have revealed fundamental weaknesses in the present state of GNVQs. Dr John Capey's review, conducted through the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, reports "unequivocal evidence" of the need to reform assessment. The NCVQ's own evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee revealed that over half the students signing up failed to complete. Sir Ron Dearing's review of qualifications 16-19 seeks to remedy a number of basic flaws in the structure and content.

I share Anne Smith's desire for GNVQs to succeed. They are potentially a very important development. They will only become so, however, if we move on from where we are now and do not try to pretend that everything in the garden is lovely.

Professor Alan Smithers Centre for Education and Employment Research Brunel University 300 St Margaret's Road Twickenham, Middlesex.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now