Skip to content
Where next for hard-to-reach learners?

Where next for hard-to-reach learners?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jonathan Ovenden looks at how the changes to vocational education are affecting hard to reach learners.

The overhaul of vocational education is having a significant impact on the qualifications available to today’s young people, and there are real concerns that these moves could affect life chances not just now but well into the future. In fact, the effects could go much deeper than is initially evident.

As many of you will know, in January last year, Michael Gove removed 96% of GCSE-equivalent vocational qualifications from school league tables from 2014, following recommendations made in the Wolf Report. Further, from 2014, only two non-GCSEs will be allowed to count towards the existing five A* to C GCSE indicators.

Options narrowing
Recent research from the IPPR think tank, supported by the Edge Foundation charity, has noted that 60% of schools are now either planning to cut the provision of vocational qualifications, or have already done so. This is despite the fact that of the senior teachers interviewed, 79% said that vocational qualifications provided a firm foundation for school-leavers to get jobs, suggesting that a worrying gap will be left behind.

More than two-thirds agreed that vocational qualifications were useful not only for those leaving school at 16 but also that they "offer a strong foundation for further study or training", an element which is essential at such an important crossroads in young people’s lives.

The 21% effect
The side-lining of vocational qualifications could have a significant impact not only on students’ grades but also on their life chances.

Analysis from the Fischer Trust highlights the real impact that the changes could have when they come into play in 2013/14. The Trust has illustrated how things would look if the 2014 performance indicators were applied to the 2011 outcomes – the results are startling, suggesting a 21% drop in the number of young people achieving five GCSEs at grade A*–C.

Schools are in a very difficult position regarding how to continue to engage learners who have traditionally responded well to vocational learning, and the impact on attainment is now looming large – the effects on life chances of not achieving five GCSEs are well-documented, being linked to the likelihood of going on to become a NEET and significantly narrowed work and study chances, not to mention the sense of disillusion and demotivation which a “failure” to achieve five GCSEs can instil.

Further, research shows that children from poorer backgrounds are likely to be particularly negatively affected, already being at a disadvantage when it comes to their chances of getting five good GCSEs – only 21% of the poorest fifth manage to gain five GCSEs grades A*–C, compared to 75% of the top economic group.

Where next?
The situation is clearly serious. At vision2learn, we have always been committed to creating accessible and engaging qualifications and resources for learners, and we too are concerned about the changes and their potential impact on young people’s futures. However, we are confident we can use the positives we have learned from our experience of creating effective online resources to continue helping schools to support their learners and learners to achieve their goals. We believe that the innovative approaches to learning which have traditionally been applied to vocational courses can also be applied to GCSEs, with a focus on engagement, encouragement and interaction, which gives learners confidence to take control of their own learning and gain a useful, empowering education. In fact, we are already seeing this in action.

Coombe Boys School

A fresh approach to GCSEs
Coombe Boys’ School is using our Leisure and Tourism GCSE resource with its young football hopefuls and already the results look promising.

Suzanne Dwyer, Senior Deputy Headteacher at Coombe Boys’ School, said: "Flexible online study with vision2learn is helping us to deliver a balanced and personalised curriculum to our Academy pupils.

"Their involvement with Fulham Football Club means that, although they have been granted a fantastic opportunity, it’s important that they don’t miss out on their GCSE lessons too. Because vision2learn for schools courses are online it offers us and them the flexibility to gain useful qualifications while they pursue a career in football."

If you’d like to discuss how our GCSE resources could help your learners, please get in touch for a free demonstration on 0191 215 4120.

Be the first to write a comment.