Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SCHOOL TABLES RATE COOKERY OVER MATHS; Row as Vocational Courses Get Boost

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SCHOOL TABLES RATE COOKERY OVER MATHS; Row as Vocational Courses Get Boost

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

A DISTINCTION in cake decorating ranks ahead of an A-grade in GCSE maths in new school league tables.

Pupils who get top marks in "vocational" subjects will give more of a boost to their schools' position in the vital tables than those doing well in traditional subjects.

The new measures are designed to improve the rankings of struggling schools - but today prompted accusations of "dumbing down". In the league tables, published tomorrow, pupils gaining a distinction in a range of vocational subjects will win their schools 55 points, while an A-grade at GCSE in disciplines such as physics or maths will be worth 52 points.

Ministers say the reforms will give schools the incentive to offer more job-related programmes to teenagers turned off by academic study. But educationists warn today that pupils might find themselves forced onto vocational courses.

Schools expert Professor Alan Smithers said: "I think students may find themselves being nudged onto these courses for the school's sake and they won't necessarily find that they open doors to work."

The new ratings would have been approved by education secretary Charles Clarke before he was moved to replace David Blunkett as Home Secretary. Exams watchdog the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority spent three years developing the complex formula, which awards points on every course to which teenagers might have access in a school or college.

They tried to account for the volume of material covered by pupils as well as the level of difficulty.

The scoring system values an A* at GCSE at 58 points, an A 52, a B 46 and so on down to a G, which is now worth 16. The ABC in cake decorating is meant to be equivalent to a GCSE at grade C and above and a distinction is worth 55 points. A BTech certificate in hairdressing, specifically designed to appeal to GCSE pupils as well as adults, is worth 92 points, the same as two Bs at GCSE. …

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