Vocational GCSE is a backward step

16th February 2001 at 00:00
I FULLY support Michael Austin's criticism of the proposed replacement of general national vocational qualification intermediate and foundation awards with so-called "vocational" GCSEs (TES FE Focus, February 2).

Many young people who achieved D - G grades in GCSE were perceived as failures. The introduction of a national framework of vocational qualifications with levels from entry upwards was a positive move. It credited attainment at a level appropriate to progress and capability.

Level 1 was a positive achievement, countering the culture of GCSE that "D - G means failure".

Government policy is equivocal. Is the priority accountability or the vision outlined in the Learning to Succeed White Paper?

Now, when a young person achieves entry level they will be faced with an enormous and, for many, insurmountable leap to achieve grade C at GCSE in order to be judged successful.

To argue that a return to the grade D - G syndrome is a positive progression is nonsense. It will create despair amongst those attempting to motivate oung people, especially those who are hard to reach, have dropped out or are disaffected.

Can we know the results of the authority's consultation on the proposed vocational GCSEs? I doubt there is much support for these reactionary proposals.

As Lord Dearing et al eloquently pointed out, the traditional elitist, academic and regressive qualifications system has patently failed many young people.

Those of us working together at community level on behalf of those who desperately need better access may as well tear up our learning plans.

We want to support attainment but this move suggests we should dump the drive to improve opportunities for disadvantaged learners and forget about added value.

This heralds a fast-track system with a soupcon of work-related elements.

So should we now spend our resources on telling people that if they can't get five A*-C GCSEs then they can forget those valid aspirations that lie somewhere beneath their low self-esteem?

Lin Stebbings 21 Marsh Delves Halifax West Yorkshire

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