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Academic and Vocational Qualifications

Volume 507: debated on Monday 8 March 2010

11. What his policy is on the balance between the provision of courses leading to academic and vocational qualifications for school children. (320685)

From 2013, most young people will access qualifications through one of four nationally available routes—apprenticeships, the diploma, GCSEs and A levels, or foundation learning. Each of those routes offers a different learning style, ranging from vocational to academic, with the diploma designed by employers and higher education institutions to bridge the divide between academic and vocational qualifications.

We all recognise the enormous contribution that vocational learning has made to upskilling our work force, making our manufacturing more competitive and encouraging innovation and enterprise. What more can my hon. Friend do to ensure that we get rid of the artificial divide between so-called vocational and academic learning, and raise the status of vocational qualifications?

My hon. Friend is right: too often, there is a tendency not to give parity of esteem to vocational routes in our schools and colleges. That is not helped by those who propose leaving out vocational subjects from league tables as if they do not count. That says that we regard academic qualifications as the premiership and vocational qualifications not even as the championship, but as one of the lower leagues. That is not an approach that we should follow, even though the Opposition advocate it.