Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Vocational courses revamp unveiled

The Royal Academy of Engineering is working with the Department for Education on new courses in engineering for teenagers

Teenagers are to be offered new courses in engineering and construction as part of an overhaul of vocational education, ministers have announced.

The Government said it is developing seven new qualifications in the two subjects, which it says will give students the skills and knowledge employers need and prepare them for careers in these industries.

It also confirmed that thousands of vocational qualifications could be cut from A-level league tables as part of a fresh bid to raise standards.

In total, there will be four new vocational qualifications in engineering and three in construction.

The move is likely to draw comparisons with the last Labour government's flagship diploma qualifications.

The first of these courses - in engineering, construction, IT, creative and media, and society health and development - were introduced in some schools in September 2008, with others brought in 12 months later. Take-up was not high, although the engineering diploma proved more popular and secured some backing from academics and industry leaders.

Last year, supporters of the engineering diploma raised concerns that the 14-16 course had effectively been downgraded after it was announced that it would be worth the equivalent of one GCSE in the future. It was previously worth five.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in November that the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), backed by the Department for Education (DfE), was to work with employers to redesign the main part of the engineering diploma and turn it into four qualifications, each equivalent to one GCSE.

The DfE confirmed that the RAE is heading up a group of engineering groups who are developing the new qualifications, which it said will "prepare students for careers in the engineering sector and meeting demands of the sector".

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock confirmed that about nine in 10 vocational courses could be axed from college and school sixth-form league tables. Mr Hancock said: "For vocational education to be valued and held in high esteem we must be uncompromising about its quality. Vocational qualifications must be stretching and strong."

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