This thesis explores how policy for initial post-16 education and training has changed repeatedly since the 1970s, leading to numerous different arrangements and to new forms of transition for young people. It evaluates critically how GNVQs fit into this picture, and relates their role to wider debates around the purpose of initial post-16 education and training.\ud \ud Using a case study, which focuses on the experience of lecturers and full-time students in one college of further education in the Midlands in the 1990s, the study finds that the social conditions of learning were very significant for students’ and lecturers’ perceptions of GNVQ. Despite the emphasis on qualifications-led reform, and the highly-specified nature of GNVQ, which attempted to impose new approaches to learning, students and teachers made sense of their experience and constructed their own meanings for GNVQ by reconciling the specifications with students’ orientations to learning and imagined futures. They engaged in ‘making the best of it’, by collaborating or colluding to make GNVQ work for them.\ud \ud However, the actions of students and lecturers in making the best of the constraints of GNVQs needs to be set within the context of wider structures and patterns of opportunity, where GNVQs form part of a system which continues to be dominated by A-levels and the academic route. This results in unequal opportunities within diverse qualifications pathways. The study concludes that any proposals for change to initial post-16 education and training need to combine understandings of the structural context in which young people’s transitions are taking place, with more detailed insight into the experience of teachers and students, who make and shape the meaning of different routes and qualifications in practice
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