Are vocational qualifications valuable?

February 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Daily Life | Leave a comment
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There has been lots of news coverage this week surrounding the decision to exclude a lot of vocational qualifications from league tables, with the overall consensus being that they can be used to inflate the figures for educational bodies and skew results.

And the way the media hype the story, it is easy to find yourself swayed into agreeing that nail technology or fish husbandry courses sound a little airy fairy – and therefore less important.  Whereas some courses such as Information and Communication Technology were previously equal to around four GCSE’s, they will now be valued on a like for like basis.

It got me thinking about our son and his future as an academic – or not.  He’ll be four this summer and will start school a month after this birthday, meaning that he’ll be the youngest in the year.  Despite being a month premature he shows no signs of being behind with his literacy and numeracy which is great.  We’re not what I’d describe as pushy parents (‘practice writing your name again son before bed’) but we do want the absolute best for him.

When he turns 16 (which doesn’t seem remotely possibly when you’ve just about potty trained them and survived the first three years of parenting by the skin of your teeth), I would be amazed if he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.  How can you with no real life experience?  How can you expect a 16 year old to know – unless you’ve conditioned them into following your career path or a path you would like to see them take?

All I hope is that he wants to have a go at something – that he’s keen, eager, polite and honest.  What more could you want?  I don’t think the education system makes it particularly easy for children to excel.  It certainly doesn’t make it easy for children to pursue less formal routes to employment.

I think it’s fantastic that academies now allow students to work three days a week and study alongside this, giving them practical experience as well as the supporting learning alongside it.  My careers day at school consisted of a five minute walk around a few lame looking stands hosted by the Armed Forces and the NHS.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re both extremely valuable and important sectors to go into and I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who can take on these roles, but at the time I wanted to be a window dresser.  So I was pretty much cast aside.

I also loved to write and eventually found my way back to this profession and now run a business based around that passion.  But my English teacher was some sort of witch (for real) and hated me (for wearing a non school uniform jumper) and never showed any interest in ‘developing’ me.

So back to vocational qualifications.  If my son chose at 16 to do a vocational qualification as opposed to taking a more academic route, I would be delighted.  A) because he wanted to do something – anything.  B) Because he had made a choice for himself and C) Because it will give him just as valuable experience as a GCSE.

Yes people may be critical of nail technology as a qualification but if that 16 year old goes on to open a successful salon when she’s in her 20’s and her classmates who got great GCSE results are still borrowing from the bank of mum because they have no idea what to do with their lives, then who wins?

It is hard to imagine our children as professionals – if I asked our son today what he wants to do for a job I know for a fact he’d say ‘I am going to be really really strong’.  Or he’d say he’d be one of Handy Manny’s tools or a shark trainer.  Let’s see if there are any vocational qualifications to suit.  Who cares what they’re worth.  Happiness is invaluable.

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