The rise and fall of the GNVQ : a study of the changing relationship between young people and vocational qualifications at the start of the twenty-first century

Allen, Martin (2005). The rise and fall of the GNVQ : a study of the changing relationship between young people and vocational qualifications at the start of the twenty-first century. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000101ef

Abstract

This research project examines the changing relationship between young people and educational qualifications in England and Wales, at the start of the twenty-first century. It assesses the reasons for increased participation in post-16 education and in particular, for the growth of full-time vocational qualifications such as the General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ).

The thesis is in three sections. By reviewing the literature on the changing nature of work, economy, class and the implications for education, chapter 1 sets a context and provides the major theoretical component. While it concludes for example, that claims about the rise of a ‘post-Fordist’ economy are unsubstantiated, it does argue that changes in the economic order have resulted in new developments in the occupational structure and in occupational recruitment and that these have been important factors behind the increased participation in education. It also argues that increased participation in education has required the reorganisation of learning and the construction of a new ‘settlement’. Vocational qualifications like GNVQ have been integral to this.

Section two, provides a critical history of GNVQ. It traces its origins in the new vocationalism of the 1980s and its more immediate influences, in particular the thinking of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. It argues that if vocational qualifications have been designed to ‘cool out’ a new generation of students, the evolution of GNVQ into a vocational A-level, has also been a consequence of students using vocational qualifications as a way of moving up the educational system.

Section three centres on a case study of students on Advanced GNVQ courses in school sixth forms. It examines how students perceive their course and locates the ambiguities of their educational careers in the theoretical framework and policy contradictions outlined in section one and two.

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