Hundreds of vocational courses axed after league table change

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A year after the government stripped hundreds of vocational qualifications from school league tables, a study has found that 60 per cent of schools have cut practical training courses already or plan to do so.

Schools are axing hundreds of vocational courses – even though teachers recognise their value to pupils. 

Just a year after the government’s decision to strip hundreds of vocational qualifications from school league tables, a new study has revealed that 60 per cent of schools have either cut practical training courses from their timetables already or plan to do so. 

This is despite the fact that 85 per cent of school leaders agree that vocational qualifications are valuable for their students. 

The research, supported by the Edge Foundation and carried out by think-tank IPPR, also shows that two-thirds of senior teachers whose schools are cutting vocational courses admit that it is due to the changes to the performance tables. 

Only 15 per cent said it was because they did not believe vocational courses were valuable. 

In contrast, four out of five (79 per cent) senior teachers interviewed reckon vocational qualifications provided a strong foundation for the world of work while 

69 per cent said they are valuable for further study or training. 

Jan Hodges, CEO of the Edge Foundation, said: “We want high quality vocational qualifications to achieve parity alongside other educational routes for young people.

“Our concern is that in attempting to guarantee quality the government has used a sledgehammer to crack the nut.

“Schools are now being forced to drop valuable technical, practical and work-related courses or risk getting no credit for the provision.”

The government announced in January 2012 that it would be cutting the number of vocational qualifications that count towards a school’s GCSE performance in league tables by 96 per cent – from 3,175 to 125. 

It said that only 70 of these would count towards the main performance measure of students who achieve five A* to C GCSE grades, including English and maths. 

The government’s decision followed recommendations made in the 2011 Wolf Report on vocational education. The changes will be implemented from the 2014 performance tables (published in January 2015) onwards.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Previously schools could do well in performance tables by offering poor-value qualifications, 94 per cent of which failed rigorous tests by experts to check their value to pupils’ future education and employment prospects. 

“We strongly believe that vocational education needs transforming for young people to succeed in today’s job market, which is why we have overhauled the system to recognise only high quality vocational courses that lead directly to a skilled trade or profession.”

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said: “Schools and teachers should be free to use their professional judgement to allow young people to follow the qualifications that are most likely to be beneficial to them on an individual basis.”


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