When does vocational mean academic? When it's in the DfE's 16-18 performance tables

Janet Downs's picture
Is it just me or has anyone noticed anything odd in the 16-18 performance tables?

At the bottom of each school's table, there's information about Key Stage 5 attainment. Under Academic Attainment, there’s a heading giving the “% of vocational students achieving at least 2 substantial vocational qualifications.” The same heading appears under Vocational Attainment.

You’d expect the figures to be the same but they aren’t.

For example, the data for JCB Academy shows 24% of vocational students achieving at least 2 substantial vocational qualifications. Further down the page, however, 91% of vocational students achieved at least 2.

So what could explain the discrepancy?

I confess. I have no idea.

If you click on the question mark next to each heading you’ll get an explanation. The first description of “vocational students” describes them as “academic students” getting A levels, IB and other non-vocational exams. The second description of “vocational students” describes them as you would expect: “vocational students” gaining vocational qualifications.

So, in the first explanation, vocational means academic and vocational exams are non-vocational ones. In the second explanation, vocational means vocational and the vocational qualifications are non-academic ones.

Confused? So am I. Again.

UPDATE 29 January 2014. The DfE corrected the heading shortly after this thread appeared. It appears it was a simple typo: "vocational" has now been changed to "academic".

Note: this is a longer version of a comment I posted on Henry Stewart's thread about Equivalents, Ebaccs and Distorted Data
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Barry Wise's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 17:27

Oh dear. There is a downside to making such a fuss over a misprint: you'll have to be ever so careful yourself from now on, Janet, otherwise people may start talking about 'double standards'!

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 17:38

Barry - I wondered if it was a misprint. And now I see it's been changed. You would have thought somebody would have noticed before publishing the tables. Proof reading was a bit lax, don't you think.

I wonder if it would have been changed if I hadn't written this thread. However, that's just speculation.


Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 17:41

Barry - there was always the chance that the vocational bit under the academic heading could have referred to academic students taking vocational exams as well. A long shot, I know, but if the DfE can't get its descriptions right, what are we to think?

Barry Wise's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 18:01


No, it wouldn't have been changed if you hadn't raised the alarm. You are doing a public service. There's another one there too, also involving the pop-up explanations..... but I can't remember what it is, but it was irking me earlier. If it comes back I'll let you know.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/01/2014 - 08:19

Barry - thanks. My remark about the DfE correcting the typo because of my thread was actually tongue-in-cheek. However, glad to have been of help. But the problem wasn't the pop-up explanation but the substitution of "vocational" for "academic". This nearly made me make a serious error of criticising JCB Academy, a school geared towards vocational education, for a low figure of only 24% gaining vocational qualifications at the end of Y13 when the true figure was 91%.

Just as a matter of interest, how did you know it was this thread which triggered the correction?

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 25/01/2014 - 15:33

Don't know for sure, but seems likely.

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