Preventing ‘sneakily enhancing’ a school’s ranking with ‘soft’ subjects is a good move – but don’t put all the blame on schools.
[Image courtesy of Alan Denny via Flickr.com ©©]
On a purely day to day basis, I don’t have that much use for the services of a nail technician. Nor, if I’m being honest, do I really need a specialist in fish husbandry or horse care to enhance the quality of my life.
But others, I’m sure, often do – an assumption based largely on the fact that the hair and nail beauty salon on my local high street is always full whenever I walk by. Prompting a secondary surmise that the nail technicians hard at work are doing very nicely, thank you. And, at a time of record youth unemployment, good luck to them, too.
But thanks to the Education Secretary, it’s likely to be a bit harder for youngsters interested in nails (or fish or horses) to find employment in their chosen field in the future. His department is to remove thousands of vocational qualifications from school league tables thereby preventing success in these so called “soft” subjects from sneakily enhancing a school’s ranking.
A City and Guilds diploma in horse care, for example, will no longer be worth 4 GCSEs nor will a Btech in fish husbandry qualify as 2. Now on the face of it this is a good move. Mixing up vocational and academic qualifications then claiming an equivalence between the two is suspect in itself. Going on to use the said equivalent as an entirely bogus way of “proving” that a school is performing well is doubly mendacious.
But don’t blame the schools entirely. It was, after all, successive governments who introduced (or retained) those potentially corrosive league tables in the first place – tables that so often scandalously misrepresent a school’s real performance and the achievements of staff and pupils alike.
All the schools were doing with the great nail technology swicheroo was playing the system which is understandable if your reputation and/or survival depend on satisfying quotas. But now the jig is up. And those most likely to suffer in the latest of the Department of Education’s periodic diktats are, as usual, the pupils. For them a sense of continuity and consistency in the all too small window of their secondary education is vital.
Schools will still be able to offer vocational courses but doing so will no longer bump up their standing in the league tables – and heads these days must excel at box-ticking as much as providing a rounded education for their charges. As a result, would-be nail technicians, stable lads, grooms, and trout farmers could well be steered away from the subjects they are naturally suited.
The fact is we need young people who can lay bricks, wire houses, mend broken pipes, and service cars or cuticles every bit as much as we need classically educated civil servants and mathematically competent economists
We should add, of course, that the above bricklayers and nail technicians need to be able to read, write, and add up when they leave school. But in themselves league tables are doing precious little to help them do that either.