It is essential to involve schools in the development of 14-16 vocational qualifications

When delivered within schools, vocational qualifications can help pupils develop work-ready, practical skills, become more confident, enhance their CV and engage in a form of learning that interests them.

With the flexibility to be woven into the core curriculum, vocational qualifications can complement their academic counterparts, giving real-world context to core subjects and enabling pupils to develop transferable and practical skills they can apply to their wider learning.

This is why we feel it is vital to continually develop robust and high quality vocational qualifications for schools, and a key part of this process is working with teachers to understand their requirements, challenges and views on the current qualifications.

At NCFE we believe vocational qualifications are an important part of a balanced curriculum. Having vocational qualifications with performance points helps recognise their importance alongside traditional GCSE subjects.

This was one of the reasons we first developed our V Certs – graded vocational qualifications for 14-16 year olds. As most vocational qualifications ceased to hold GCSE equivalency from 2013, we created V Certs to ensure pupils would still benefit from vocational education and schools would receive recognition within performance tables.

We are still waiting for the latest performance point table listings to be announced, and are already redeveloping our V Certs to meet the Department for Education’s (DfE) new technical requirements for December 2016 to make sure they continue to carry performance points and count in the Progress 8 measure.

Our new and improved V Certs will have a minimum of 40 per cent external assessment in line with DfE criteria but will also include clear progression, a consistent standard and new compensation model. In the new year, we will be developing or redeveloping Level 1 and 2 certificates in subjects including business & enterprise, art & design, graphic design, interactive media, performance skills and craft, plus Level 3 certificates in art & design and business & enterprise.

A major part of this work has involved working with teachers and hosting qualification development sessions, to ensure that the qualifications we create are meeting both learner and school needs.

Following the recent development of our new Level 1, 2 and 3 music technology V Certs, the feedback we received from the teachers involved highlighted why this working relationship is so important.

Comments included: “I really felt like I was making a difference and adding value to the course”, and “as a teacher you rarely get the opportunity to contribute to the development of a qualification, so it was great to have the point of view of the person who has to deliver the qualification heard.”

The teachers involved in the development and pilot of our V Cert in Craft also found the experience useful.

Jim Dunning, from The Nottingham Emmanuel School, commented: “The pilot showed me the differences from the previous qualification and any problems that may crop up. I would also like to run the pilot next year in the light of its simplicity and ease of teaching including external assessment. I found that the curriculum allows for students to make very different projects and still keep on track with the objectives easily.”

Carol Bell, from The Academy at Shotton Hall, said: “Taking part in the pilot was useful to both myself and the students involved. It gave us the opportunity to look at the assessment criteria before it was released and set a benchmark for the new grading system. Plus, the inclusion of an enterprise element meant the students were more motivated and self-driven.”

To find out more about our vocational qualifications for schools, register for one of our free Introduction to V Cert events in January and February, which are open to all secondary schools and academies. Please visit ncfe.org.uk/events to sign up for either the Bristol, Manchester, London or Newcastle event.

We are always looking for teaching staff to get involved in qualification development, so if you are interested then contact the NCFE Schools Team on 0191 240 8822 or schools@ncfe.org.uk

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