GCSE Move Will “Limit Choices for Barnsley Pupils”

Dan Jarvis MP for Barnsley Central, today hit out at Education Secretary Michael Gove, following the announcement that some vocational courses will no longer count as GCSE equivalents.

Mr Jarvis recently performed the official opening of the state-of-the-art Springwell School in his constituency; one of four new schools being opened in Barnsley Central under the former Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme. He said in a statement, “In Barnsley, our young people are facing a changing job market; gone are the jobs of their parents and grandparents, it is a very different world today. The important thing we must do, is to make sure that our young people have the edge, when it comes to the jobs of today. This means more vocational skills, not less. If you speak with employers in Barnsley, as I do all the time, they will tell you they need young people that have a decent education, literacy and numeracy skills, are keen to learn and importantly, that are equipped with the skills that enable them to be ready for work.”

Some of the vocational qualifications studied by pupils in Barnsley schools count for more than one GCSE, this accounts for the various elements that make up the curriculum of these qualifications and enables pupils to learn a course that is more in line with their individual interests and career aspirations.

Mr Jarvis added, “The fact is, all children are individual, with different but equally valuable strengths and talents. Some are academically gifted, some have talents in more vocational areas, such as construction, the creative industries, engineering and hair and beauty therapy. These are all vital industries and those who choose to become specialists in these fields are providing services that are essential to the future of Barnsley and the UK.

Let’s get the facts straight though, only 2% of pupils leave school at sixteen, so the only purpose for measuring at this age, is for the benefit of the schools, not the young people that are progressing to courses that reflect their chosen career-path. The way this government is interpreting the Wolf Report is going to seriously affect the choices and opportunities of pupils by encouraging schools to only offer courses that score them more points on a league table. We must ensure our schools are offering courses that enable all our pupils to reach their potential, whatever field their talents lie in.”

As Michael Gove downgraded courses including Diplomas in construction and engineering, Dan questioned the logic behind such a move. “The fact is, these diploma courses include academic and vocational elements, they are extremely timetable heavy and by downgrading them to just one GCSE, the schools are discouraged from offering them and pupils from taking them. This will restrict the range of skills available to our young people and limit their choices and opportunities when they are ready to enter the job market. The reality is, not everyone wants to go to university, a one-stop-shop for education, biased towards a league-table outcome, just does not work and is unfair to a huge number of pupils who have incredible talents, they now will be told are not valued.”

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