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Through the vocational maze

Martin Child reviews course materials covering GNVQ art and design.

Without a doubt GNVQs are here to stay: too much has been invested for them to quietly die a death. It is therefore sound business sense for schools with a sixth form entry to offer this qualification in a range of subjects, and many art departments are now expected to teach GNVQ Intermediate andor Advanced. There is obviously great value in these qualifications, but, unless the teacher is fully committed to the philosophy behind the courses, there is much work entailed in obtaining appropriate work which is pitched at the right level and also covers the required diversity and range. Documentation from City and Guilds, BTEC, or RSA doesn't necessarily provide an easy to follow route through the complexities of GNVQ.

One way to avoid every art teacher re-inventing the wheel is to buy a well constructed course which is designed to cover all aspects of GNVQ. Longman provide such a package. There are two parts - Intermediate and Advanced can be purchased separately or together. They are comprehensive in their approach, covering all units of work necessary to achieve a GNVQ. Each unit (all photocopiable) begins with an "Outline of the activity", suggests "Learning outcomes", offers "Useful resources", explains the "Core skills" covered, and shows "Grading themes". This is followed by the "Brief" which explains in detail just what is expected and takes the student through various stages in order to complete the unit of work. Some of these briefs are open-ended tasks while others are more prescriptive, design-based projects. However, the framework is such that individuality can easily be accommodated.

Within each unit there are boxes alongside each stage of the project noting which GNVQ elements are being covered by the work. Great emphasis is placed on recording and documentation of the processes and outcomes. There is also a useful checklist at the end of each assignment to ensure that the student has covered everything expected of them.This whole approach encourages students to take much more responsibility towards learning. This is, however, not to negate the teaching process. These packs are not simply to photocopy and give out to students to complete on their own, in fact some of the units include a specific "taught programme", but, because everything is available to the student they will know exactly what is expected of them and should be able to work independently for some of the time.

This open approach will give students a full understanding of the task in hand and the implications of the elements of research, development, process and evaluation, expected of them. Considering the level of student that Intermediate GNVQ is aimed at, the language is sometimes difficult and help may be required to explain some tasks and concepts. Advanced GNVQ students should have a better understanding of the vocabulary. These assignments are interesting, being well thought out and planned.

If you are undertaking GNVQ Art and Design, or even thinking about it, these assignment packs are a good investment. Even if some of the specific briefs are not appropriate for your needs, the framework is very good and any art teacher can, and surely will, adapt themes to suit the needs of students.

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