§ 7. Mr. Anthony Coombs
To ask the Secretary of State for Education what targets have been set for the uptake of general national vocational qualifications among 16 to 19-year-olds over the course of the next three years.
§ Mr. Boswell
We need high take-up of appropriate and demanding vocational qualifications in the next three years if we are to achieve the challenging national targets for education and training. We are aiming for one in four 16-year-olds to be starting GNVQ courses in 1996. Our longer-term aim is for half of all 16 and 17-year-olds to take GNVQs at foundation, intermediate or advanced level.
§ Mr. Coombs
In welcoming the evident popularity of GNVQs and their importance to the national training targets, may I ask my hon. Friend to agree that their future success will depend on the standards that they set? In that context, will he examine the comments by Professor Smithers of Manchester university, who said that the qualifications were not sufficiently knowledge-orientated, rather than skills-orientated, and that they should be assessed universally by an examination?
§ Mr. Boswell
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. As he will know, the message is so good that inadvertently I have repeated it, but it does bear repeating.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend's comments on rigour. I refer him to the speech that I delivered this morning at the GNVQ workshop conducted by the Confederation of British Industry, in which I analysed all our remaining concerns about GNVQs and dealt with them in a positive but constructive mode.