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Tech-levels to gain same status as A-levels

New technical courses will be introduced for 16-19 year olds with the same status as A-levels, the Government has announced.

From 2014 ‘Tech-levels’ will take as long as A-levels to complete and must be endorsed by a professional association or five employers registered with Companies House. They will focus on practical training and aim to raise the status of vocational qualifications.

Applied General Qualifications will take the same time to complete as AS-levels and will focus on broader technical study. They will require backing from three universities to count in performance tables.

The changes follow a review by Prof Alison Wolf, who argued that schools were teaching qualifications that would not help students into work, simply because of their ranking in league tables.

The skills minister, Matthew Hancock, said: “High-quality rigorous vocational education is essential to future prosperity and the life chances of millions.

“Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations. These reforms are unashamedly aspirational and will ensure Tech-levels help people into apprenticeships and jobs.”

Neil Carberry, of the CBI: “The litmus test is that Tech-levels offer the gold-standard training that employers want while not being seen as second-class. Courses must have stretching subject knowledge, rigorous assessment, hard-nosed practical experience, and be a stepping stone to a great career.

“The new system must be very clear about which provision is deemed 'occupational' and which is to be 'applied general'.

“Perception is all with qualifications, so we must avoid a two-tier system, where one is seen as too narrow and the other as too broad. We want to see the more rigorous Tech-level brand extended to both.”

Labour's Tristram Hunt added: “It is right that pupils have a choice of taking new vocational courses, but Michael Gove needs to reassure parents that it will be a gold standard to sit alongside A-levels and not an afterthought.”

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