Vocational is not second class
I trust we can hit this on the head from the word "go". Vocational courses, with full equivalence to their non-vocational counterparts, are not aimed at the less academic. They are an alternative route for all pupils, provided for those who have already decided on a career area - or at least to learn from studying the area - and who perhaps, after nine or 11 years of studying "purer" subjects, are not switched on by the thought of more of the same.
The options which are there for the "less academic" pupils are the different course levels, not the choice between vocational and non-vocational