The impact of league table reform on vocational education in schools

Published Mon 28 Jan 2013
The results of a survey of senior teachers in English state schools suggests that potentially valuable vocational courses are being removed from school curriculums as a result of changes in 2012 that cut 96 per cent of courses from school performance league tables.

This month marks a year since the government announced the removal of the majority of GCSE-equivalent vocational qualifications from the school performance league tables, in response to valid concerns about the rigour and value of some courses. Twelve months on, IPPR is undertaking research to investigate the impact of this change on vocational learning in schools.

Crucially:

  • 60 per cent of school leaders said their school had either already reduced the number of level-two vocational qualifications on offer or was planning to do so
  • 66 per cent of those who said their schools were reducing their vocational offer said that the reason for this was the changes to the school performance tables.

This survey shows us that the government may have correctly identified a problem - 44 per cent of respondents agreed that it was right to cut the number of vocational qualifications counting as directly equivalent to GCSEs in school league tables - but incorrectly identified the solution: 70 per cent agreed that many valuable vocational courses are no longer being offered because of the government's decision to reduce the number of vocational qualifications that count in school performance league tables.

This poll supports what education analysts have known for some time: that head teachers are highly sensitive to what the government measures in its school performance tables. England needs a self-improving school system in which schools are able to offer learning opportunities that they are confident are in the best interests of their young people. This requires a reformed accountability system for schools that creates fewer perverse incentives and a qualifications framework that is less vulnerable to changing political imperatives in Whitehall.

  • Download a summary of the full results of the survey of 252 senior teachers conducted for IPPR. 

 

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