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Vocational route is flourishing

Your article "Bleak future for vocational route" (FE Focus, January 2) reports suggestions that improved GCSE results will damage vocational education. But it appears to ignore recent developments.

Eight new GCSEs in vocational subjects were introduced in September 2002, a record 230,000 young people are taking Modern Apprenticeships this year and Mike Tomlinson's review of 14 to 19 learning has a significant focus on high-quality vocational options for young people.

The Skills Strategy launched last summer included a commitment to a new Level 2 entitlement for adults, the lifting of the age cap on Modern Apprenticeships and a historic shake-up of adult vocational qualifications.

In his November pre-Budget report the Chancellor announced the extension of employer training pilots aimed at employees without a Level 2 qualification. The new Sector Skills Councils will ensure vocational courses in the future better reflect employer requirements.

The Conservative shadow minister's comments once again expose his party's cynical failure to acknowledge that a significant part of the future expansion of higher education will come through vocational courses such as foundation degrees. He also defines his party's vision for vocational education as excluding the possibility of progression into higher education.

Tory policy is now crystal clear. Remove the ladder of opportunity from thousands of young people and divide them into "sheep and goats". Some things never change!

Ivan Lewis MP Minster for skills and vocational education Sanctuary House, London SW1

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