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Vocational guide can't keep up

British Vocational Qualifications (4th edition) Published by Kogan Page ISBN 0-7494-3598-4 pound;35

It says here that this is "an authoritative guide to vocational qualifications". This 500-plus-page volume sets out to demystify awarding bodies, list 3,500 vocational qualifications, explain acronyms, and provide a new directory of colleges offering vocational courses.

This will be useful to those confused by our vocational education system, but as a job, compiling this ranks somewhat below painting the Forth Bridge, which moves about less than our vocational qualifications do. On the day I write, we are told in the press that general national vocational qualifications are to be phased out.

The book is a valiant attempt, and does indeed list 3,500 vocational qualifications, though that is a long way short of the full complement now on offer. It also gives the impression that there are only three awarding bodies in Britain, despite carrying an advertisement for a fourth and referring in the catalogue to several more, and lists colleges which had ceased to exist before the date of publication. Inevitably, it is out of date.

In its favour, it is well organised and clearly presented, and is a useful reference book. One day, we might have a system that is coherent and sensible enough to last more than a few months.

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