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

9th July 2010 at 01:00

In the article "Academies veer towards vocational courses" (June 25) a deliberately provocative stance is taken, demonstrated by the opening line which claims that schools are "using" vocational qualifications "that boost their league table positions". I would like to make some important points:

- To compare school headline figures with and without vocational qualifications is not statistically valid. Students follow vocational qualifications as an alternative to GCSEs.

- Excellent schools provide a curriculum that is appropriate for their students, typically including a blend of vocational and more academic courses.

- One-third of the schools listed were from Lincolnshire. Did The TES question whether this could be linked to the existence of academic selection in this county? These are schools where the majority of students have demonstrated that they are not good at academic exams by failing the 11 Plus.

Most insulting was the insinuation that schools are only in the business of climbing league tables. I will not deny that there are external pressures on schools to perform. However, we should not forget that where schools have gained success by "using" vocational qualifications this is because young people are gaining qualifications that will provide them with opportunities they might otherwise be denied.

Ian Widdows, Deputy headteacher, The Giles School, Boston, Lincolnshire.

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