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Dual Qualification in England
GNVQ: advanced level
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(1) National framework of the scheme; 
(2) Major features of the scheme;
(3) Educational concepts underlying the scheme;
(4) Organisational implications of the scheme;
(5) Evidence of the scheme's effect. 
Info unit 1 of 5 
England: GNVQ advanced level

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(1) National framework of the scheme

The current English framework of post-compulsory and pre-higher education qualifications comprises three major pathways.  The traditional academic A level route was established in 1951.  The expressly vocational pathway, leading to National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), was introduced in 1987.  The third pathway, involving programmes based on General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs), was introduced in 1992 and is intended to straddle academic and vocational traditions.
    GNVQ was specifically intended to provide the skills, knowledge and understanding of a vocational area so as to give opportunities for progression into employment (and NVQs) or further learning.  It is available at three levels (foundation, intermediate and advanced).  The Advanced GNVQ is designed for entrance into higher education or employment (and NVQs), and so is a qualification with a vocational emphasis but a dual prospective orientation.  The particular 'problem' GNVQ was designed to meet was the low participation rate in education through to age 18, compared to all major economic competitors.
    The overall aim of reforms in this area was to create a coherent national qualifications framework with three differentiated pathways.  The specific objectives for GNVQs (the 'middle track') were set out in the 1991 White Paper "Education and training for the twenty-first century": they should offer a broad preparation for employment; be an accepted route to higher education; be of equal standing with academic qualifications at the same level; be clearly related to NVQs; and be suitable for full-time students in colleges and schools (DES/ED 1991).

Sources
INTEQUAL 
Contact

Alan Brown
Info unit 2 of 5 
England: GNVQ advanced level

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(2) Major features of the scheme

The major target group for full-time Advanced GNVQ programmes are those with four or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C.  However, as the overwhelming majority of those with five or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C opt for A level provision, in many centres stated entry requirements are not always met in practice.  While most entrants to Advanced GNVQ programmes come from GCSE programmes at age 16, some progress via one year Intermediate GNVQ programmes.
    The Advanced GNVQ is a unitised programme, which usually lasts two years.  They are available in fifteen vocational areas: art and design; business; health and social care; leisure and tourism; manufacturing; construction and the built environment; hospitality and catering; science; engineering; information technology; media/communication and production; management studies; retail and distributive services; land and environment; performing arts and entertainment industries.  The subjects have been introduced over a five year period, with the first five subjects available on a pilot basis from 1992-93, and the final two subjects being piloted in 1996-97.  Therefore, it will be 1997-98 before all GNVQ programmes are available to all centres.

Sources
INTEQUAL 
Contact

Alan Brown
Info unit 3 of 5 
England: GNVQ advanced level

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(3) Educational concepts underlying the scheme

Each Advanced GNVQ comprises eight mandatory vocational units; four optional units and three mandatory core skills units at level 3.  Up to six additional units (or additional qualifications) can be taken if desired, because the basic GNVQ provision is expected to be two thirds of a 3 A level programme.  The mandatory core skills cover communication, application of number and information technology.  GNVQ units are described in terms of outcomes, and students are assessed against criteria specified by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ).  The units are broken down into elements, typically 3-5 per unit.  Each element lists the performance criteria that students need to achieve.  Further detail is given in accompanying range statements, specifying the range of contexts in which performance should be demonstrated.
    Performance against the criteria is judged by means of teacher assessment of a portfolio of evidence produced by the student.  Besides the performance criteria and range statement, teachers are also expected to refer to evidence indicators, published by NCVQ, showing the quantity and type of evidence required.  In addition to teacher assessment, students have to pass multiple-choice knowledge tests for most of the mandatory units.  These tests are externally set and marked.
    A variety of learning styles are used on GNVQ programmes, with students often undertaking assignments, which require research and information-handling skills.  Indeed the emphasis upon active learning was seen as one of GNVQ's  most positive features.

Sources
INTEQUAL 
Contact

Alan Brown
Info unit 4 of 5 
England: GNVQ advanced level

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(4) Organisational implications of the scheme

The most problematic aspect of GNVQ in practice was related to assessment, and these problems in turn could be linked to major deficiencies in the GNVQ model of teaching, learning and assessment.  The unit tests were too narrow in focus, and used impoverished models of cognitive development and knowledge acquisition.  The assessment processes under-emphasised the importance of integration and the development of a substantive knowledge base.  There were fundamental flaws in the whole orientation of assessment based upon highly detailed criteria of performance.

Sources
INTEQUAL 
Contact

Alan Brown
Info unit 5 of 5 
England: GNVQ advanced level

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(5) Evidence of the scheme's effect

After several attempts at ad hoc reform, and a major independent review, NCVQ announced in autumn 1996 that they intended to develop a new GNVQ model, new GNVQ unit structures, a new approach to outlining the components of GNVQ units, revised (clearer) assessment criteria, a new style of external testing, a revised recording system and guidance on effective teaching and delivery strategies that teachers could use.
    Overall then, the desire in 1991 to create a new 'middle pathway' was well-founded.  The particular embodiment of that desire, the GNVQ, however, was seriously compromised in two respects.  Its assessment model was fundamentally flawed: atomistic assessment regimes have been shown to fail once again.  Secondly, the timescale for implementation was unrealistic: a situation which meant that it was impossible to 'bed down' the new qualification based on mature reflection upon experience and practice.  Rather everyone was continually scrambling to get things in place and reacting to events.  This in turn has led to almost continual changes, as attempts have been made to improve GNVQ in many respects. 

Sources
INTEQUAL 
Contact

Alan Brown

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