Vocational study should not be cast as academia's poor relation

9th July 2010 at 01:00

Anastasia de Waal, education director at the think-tank Civitas, is quoted suggesting that, because of the greater likelihood that academy students will do vocational qualifications, "the already deprived are being deprived of academic learning" ("Less than 50% of academies' 'GCSE' passes are academic subjects", July 2). This is untrue.

Many academies work with pupils from communities where aspirations have historically been very low. By offering vocational qualifications, these academies inspire young people to succeed in academic GCSEs and encourage them to stay on in education.

This approach is having a transformational impact on their achievements and their communities. Previously disengaged pupils have woken up to the value of academic study.

Just as vocational qualifications are right for some pupils, inner-city academies often enter students for academic AS-levels or GCSEs earlier than the norm. These youngsters are allowed to progress at a rate that is appropriate to their personal development. This is not about league tables; it is about providing what is right for each student. The outcome is that academy examination results are rising at twice the national average.

Without the vocational qualifications in the first place, many pupils would simply not get strong academic qualifications. Many would leave with nothing. It is important that all their achievements are properly recognised when the league tables are reviewed by the coalition Government.

Mike Butler, Chair, Independent Academies Association.

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