Wrong to ban GNVQs
She believes General National Vocational Qualifications have transformed the life chances of her pupils, helping them to get jobs or to go on post-16 study.
And Mrs Hickman said schools which ban GNVQs because they do not believe they are worth four GCSEs are failing teenagers.
"I have heard heads say at conferences that they could achieve 100 per cent five A*-C, instead of 70 per cent, if they offered GNVQ, but they decided not to. I think they are disadvantaging their pupils."
Walsall's use of GNVQs is under the spotlight because of the contribution they made to its results last year.
Official league tables showed that 67 per cent of pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs, or vocational equivalent. But when vocational exams are excluded, the figure drops to 7 per cent.
Mrs Hickman said all pupils had taken a mixture of GNVQs and GCSEs. She said GNVQs were good courses which meant that many pupils left with qualifications which employers, colleges and universities valued.
She said: "This academy has enabled 67 per cent of our pupils last year to be economically stable, to walk out of here into the wider world with their heads held high. We are proud of that."