Thursday, 2 February 2012

Gove gets it wrong - again.

The government that promised less micromanaging from the centre has once again, in the form of Michael Gove's edict that schools may no longer count a long list of vocational qualifications in the calculation of their "league table" status, poked its nose in and caused further damage. What is needed is not the downgrading of vocational qualifications but the abolition of the league tables.

For years the second class if not third class status of vocational qualifications has been one of the major weaknesses of British education. We used to have perfectly good and highly respected qualifications, obtained mainly through work-based apprenticeships and "day release" to technical colleges, and validated by responsible bodies such as the "City and Guilds" and RSA. Young men and women with a "Full Tech" Certificate could hold their heads up high and employers could rely on their stickablity and ability to do the job.

Successive government have, through a series of "reforms" poked their noses in and introduced a confetti of qualifications incomprehensible to both the holders and employers. GNVQs were quickly dubbed in the staffrooms as "Going Nowhere Very Quiclky" and NVQs as "Not Very Qualified." Admitedly some of this derision arose from the snobbish attitudes of many academic teachers, but a system which produces embossed certificates with fancy signatures and seals of approval for anything from a three year course to a one day session on how to wash up hygienically could hardly gain respect.

Like, I suspect, most teachers, I should prefer to see the years of compulsory schooling devoted to genuine education and vocational training left to the further and higher education levels. However, it should be up to schools to decide at what age and for which pupils the educational mix should be leavened, where necessary, by some instruction which is more obviously vocational.

Given the existence of league tables it is not surprising that school leaders take their eyes off their main purpose, inspiring their pupils with a knowledge of the many wonders the world has to offer and a love of learning more about them, to how to achieve shabby improvements in their places on the government's marking scheme. It is this "tick box" mentality which damages our education and demeans the teaching profession. League tables should be abolished and teachers trusted to get on with their job.


  1. If asked whether I agree with Peter Wrigley regarding his "Gove gets it wrong - again" I would avoid the reply "absolutely" and merely say "100%".

    Some students are not suited to "driving desks" and struggle to relate to a formal academic discipline. (I recall even one of my brighter "A" level students tartly commenting that my Economics teaching had the rigour of "rigor mortis").

    By contrast vocational subjects which contain practical elements underpinned by a sufficiency of theory delivered in digestible bite-size chunks give schools the opportunity to keep these less academic youngsters engaged. There is then a sporting chance that the student can leave school with self-esteem intact, together with sufficient communication skills, numeracy and vocational learning to be of value to society.

  2. Thanks: glad you agree and pleased you avoided "absolutely" when you meant "yes."