AS A MINOR player in schools but probably the best-known vocational awarding body, City Guilds hopes to gain the best of both worlds from its alliance with the Associated Examining Board and the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board.
Nick Carey, director general of City Guilds, admits that, at just 10 per cent, his organisation's market share of GNVQs is "not terribly exciting". But linking up with the two exam boards can give the organisation a stronger foothold in schools while allowing it at the same time to continue marketing NVQs and other vocational qualifications independently.
"We felt we ought to offer centres the opportunity to run GNVQs alongside A-levels and GCSEs," he said. "We are adjusting to the creation of Edxecel; City Guilds can't offer packages of A-levels and GCSEs."
City Guilds has ruled out any possibility of merger with either the AEB or NEAB. But this does not preclude a future merger between the two academic exam boards, which together account for more than half of all GCSE and A-level entries in England. While declining to discuss any merger, Kathleen Tattersall, NEAB's chief executive, said offering GNVQs and A-levels through unitary bodies allowed the qualifications to sit more comfortably alongside one another.
Five years ago the NEAB expressed interest in providing GNVQs but was prevented by government rules restricting the then new qualifications to the three main vocational bodies. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance must announce final details of its operating plans, including which chief executive will become its figurehead, by next summer.
In the meantime, said Ms Tattersall, schools and colleges will continue to be offered the same syllabuses. She said: "It's a steady-as-you-go operation, with no major changes in the short term."
George Turnbull, an AEB spokesman, confirmed schools would eventually be able to choose between the academic syllabuses of only three English boards instead of four. But he said that still represented a significant choice.
The NEAB has been an official "ally" of City Guilds since last year, while the AEB also has historical links with the vocational body. Early signs of co-operation between the members of AQA include a guide, produced by the NEAB and City Guilds, advising teachers of the links between business studies at A-level and GNVQ.
The Southern Examining Group, part of the AEB, has meanwhile been working with City Guilds over a new driving test exam.
Counsellors and occupational therapists should also eventually notice a difference. During the past year, discussions have been taking place between the AEB - the awarding body for the Central School for Counselling and Therapy - and City Guilds, which is expected to award NVQ in counselling.
John Francis, director of testing and training services at the AEB, said his board's certificates and diplomas in counselling would be mapped on to the draft standards for NVQs in counselling, easing progression between the qualifications.