From education to employment

Valuing the alternatives

Another week, another step backwards in the march towards parity of esteem for vocational education.  It was with a heavy heart that I read this week’s announcement by the Government that will force pupils to continue studying maths and English until they achieve a grade C at GCSE.

No-one can dispute the importance of good literacy and numeracy or the shocking lack of these basic skills in our country today. However, GCSEs only suit some learning styles and forcing students to learn in one particular way will do nothing to foster their love of these core subjects or indeed raise skills levels. Some of the coverage referred to students being able to take functional skills or other maths qualifications but the Government’s intentions are clear – a C in Maths and English GCSEs is the main goal.

Many of our employer partners are in agreement that it would be much more effective to have the option to teach maths and English that is applicable to the real world and taught in the context of learners’ chosen subjects. This way, an aspiring computer programmer can see the value of learning maths as a way of understanding coding. 

Michael Gove needs to stop presenting alternatives to GCSEs and A-Levels as second rate and start listening to employers.  They would rather have rounded candidates with relevant business skills that encompass maths and English than the right grade at GCSE.

We shall be engaging with the Government to understand what alternative qualifications will be accepted by Ofqual.  In the meantime, we’ve developed a new suite of maths and English qualifications that focus on the application of real world skills and are supported by a range of digital tools designed to help build learner confidence.  We are also continuing to work with employers and the education community to develop robust vocational programmes of study like the City & Guilds TechBac® that equip learners with the right levels of numeracy and literacy as well as real employability skills.

Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body

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