Exam chiefs claim that GNVQs are now seen as 'on a par' with A-levels. Warwick Mansell reports.
A RECORD number of students acquired General National Vocational Qualifications in 1999, prompting exam chiefs this week to claim that they now have the same status as A-levels.
The number of students achieving the qualification rose by 13 per cent from 92,036 last year to 104,108.
The new figures also show a rise in the numbers entering for GNVQs, the main work-centred qualifications for sixth-formers and college students, from 186,000 last year to 189,000. However, this number is still less than in 1997, when 198,000 entered fo the qualification.
Dr Ron McClone, convenor of the Joint Council for General Qualifications, said:
"GNVQs at all levels are increasingly popular with students, with the advanced level being seen as a recognised alternative to A-levels."
However, academics were quick to pour scorn on attempts to compare the qualifications with their academic competitors.
Phil Hodkinson, professor of lifelong learning at Leeds University, said advanced GNVQs could never have the status of A-levels among students and parents.
He said: "In attempting to match A-levels, they are attempting the impossible."
It was better to present GNVQs as worthwhile qualifications in their own right, he said.
GNVQs, launched six years ago, still do not attract students on anything like the scale of A-levels - taken by 800,000 people this year.
There are three levels of GNVQ: foundation (equivalent to four GCSE passes), intermediate (four GCSEs A*-C) and advanced (two A-levels).
The Government gave the results a lukewarm greeting. Baroness Blackstone, the further and higher education minister, said only that "GNVQs are becoming increasingly established as a qualification leading to higher education or to employment".
Martin Cross, chairman of the joint council, admitted that the numbers entering for the qualification had reached a "plateau" in recent years.
Improvements in the completion rate were the result of teachers becoming more familiar with the material, and students receiving better advice on whether to start a course, he said.
But he added that changes to be introduced next year, allowing students to sit a slimmed-down advanced GNVQ which they could take as well as A-levels in other subjects, would be popular.
Although completion rates for the three types of GNVQ are up on last year, this is from a relatively low base.
At foundation level only 41.4 per cent of candidates passed, against 38.5 per cent last year. At intermediate level 55.1 per cent achieved a full award, while 58.4 per cent completed at advanced level.
Exam chiefs claim that GNVQs are now seen as 'on a par'
with A-levels. Warwick Mansell reports