Schools are encouraging pupils to take courses in how to serve drinks and identify airport facilities rather than studying academic subjects, a report has claimed.
A new paper by the Civitas think tank claims schools are urging pupils to take qualifications that will boost their standing in league tables.
The report says that in 2008, 311,000 “vocationally-related qualifications” (VQR) were taken by 14-to-16-year-olds.
But these qualifications do not necessarily provide youngsters with the skills they need for working in a particular industry, it claims.
Under the current system, one of these qualifications can be worth up to four A*-C grades at GCSEs in school league tables.
This “greatly incentivises their uptake in schools”, the report claims.
It adds: “Despite their value in the league tables, all too often a bogus vocational training route is being used simply as a way to take lower achievers off academic subjects.”
An English teacher from south-east London told Civitas: “The bottom sets and vocational qualification students correlate completely. You never encourage the top people to do vocational qualifications.
“To give an example, there was a really bright girl last year who is a fantastic cricketer who really wanted to do BTEC Sport because of the coaching and hands-on element. She wasn’t allowed to because the school wanted her to do academic subjects.”
The report claims that a unit in the BTEC First Certificate in Hospitality entitled “Serving Food and Drink” says “learners will serve food and drink to customers using a range of methods and equipment”, as well as “learn the presentation and personal skills, including being polite to customers, which are necessary for efficient and effective food and drink service”.
And a unit on “investigating airports” for OCR Nationals Level 2 Travel and Tourism qualification says: “Candidates will develop knowledge and understanding of the key characteristics of the airport and airline sectors and the facilities and services offered.”
Such qualifications are not academic or vocational, the Civitas report claims.
A spokesman for OCR said: “Civitas is wrong. OCR Nationals incorporate inherently practical, applied learning - founded on a solid base of knowledge and understanding.
“OCR has never claimed they fully prepare somebody for work in that sector - any more than a GCSE in an academic subject equips you to become a university don in a discipline.”