Certificate of Pre- Vocational Education (CPVE) 1985-early 1990s.

A number of factors brought about the development of the CPVE namely:

  • The rise in youth unemployment in the late1970 and early1980s
  • Students entering FE colleges who were unqualified for, or uncommitted to, the coursed offered by these institutions
  • The increased number of students staying on at school 6th forms
  • Issues associated with what were the relevant courses to offer to this increasing number of students with unfocussed intentions whether for study or career
  • The apparent wish by successive governments to link education more to the world of work.

The basic aims of CPVE were:

  • To assist the transition from school to adulthood by further equipping young people with the basic skills, experiences, attitudes, knowledge and personal and social competence required for success in adult life including work
  • To provide individually-relevant educational experience which encourages learning and achievement
  • To provide young people with recognition of their attainments through a qualification which embodies national standards
  • To provide opportunities for progression to continuing education, training and/or work.

(A typical set of worthy aims but as always the devil was in the detail, interpretation and ultimately in its implementation).

The development of pre-vocational frameworks and full-time qualifications such as the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) was part of the Technical Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) –see biography on this website. The Further Education Unit (FEU) was instrumental in the creation and subsequent development of CPVE through its seminal publication of 1979 ‘A Basis for Choice,’ now often referred to as the ABC study. CPVE grew out of the FEU-devised framework for a year pre-vocational courses. The FEU proposed that such courses should be based on a common core, designed around 12 broad aims to be achieved through a range of ‘observable performances to be expected of students and learning experiences which they should be offered’. The programme comprised the core, that occupied 60% of the course and the remaining 40% was taken up by vocational and job specific studies. The essential features were:

  • The curriculum was a framework as opposed to a syllabus
  • A set of ten core areas (with 200-plus core competences to be satisfied): personal and career development, industrial, social and environmental studies, communication,
  • social skills, numeracy, science and technology, information and technology, creative development, practical skills and problem solving
  • Vocational studies from five broad areas – to be taken in modules in ascending levels-introductory, exploratory, and preparatory. Vocational studies and the core to occupy 74% of the time and are to be integrated for 20% of the time
  • Additional studies-to occupy no more than 25% of the time. Students may supplement their CPVE course here in any way they wish. Many students used this time for traditional examinations such as GCSE
  • Work experience- real or simulated. An evaluation conducted in 1988 of student perceptions showed this element to be the most popular element of the course but the other core skills were heavily criticised particularly the science and technology*
  • Formative and summative profiling (of the core competences)
  • Experiential learning
  • Negotiation
  • Counselling

*causes cited poor teaching, teachers found it difficult to find material that interested the students, the students themselves could not see the purpose of these subjects

The City and Guilds (CGLI) developed the proposal and created the CGLI 365 course which closely followed the ABC framework. The DES in 1980 published a policy statement Examinations 16-18:A Consultative Paper, (Macfarlane Report), when they announced their preference for the CGLI/FEU framework as a national 17+ examination over the Certificate of Extended Education (CEE)* that had been proposed by the earlier Keohane report. At the time CEE was strongly supported by teachers and 6th formers.

After this endorsement the new qualification was developed jointly by CGLI and BTEC and became known as the CPVE. The course was quickly taken up by schools and colleges many of which had offered the CGLI 365 course. Sadly BTEC had other ideas about pre-vocational qualifications and within a year of the launch of CPVE in 1985 were offering they own vocationally specific ‘First Certificates/Awards’. These awards were seen by many 16+ students as more attractive because, rightly or wrongly, they thought that better progression routes existed via the BTEC Nationals when compared with the broadly based CPVE courses. This was a classic example of destructive competition that so often happens when there is an absence of a common foundation framework for one year courses which creates duplication of certification and problems associated with progression at 17+.

CPVE and TVEI were specific programmes to more easily facilitate collaboration between colleges and schools through provision of link courses and shared resources. The CPVE was introduced for students who were undecided about which vocational area they should study and were perceived as being unready to enter employment and were labelled in typically disparaging English cultural fashion as low achieving. These latter comments again highlight the way successive governments perceive learners who are outside the academic qualifications! In March 1984 the Joint Board had tried to define the CPVE target population in more civilised terms namely:

  • Young people who after completing compulsory schooling, will benefit from further education as a preparation for adult life, including the world of work
  • Do not wish at this stage to proceed to GCE ‘A’ level study
  • Are interested in vocational training or work but are not yet committed to, or qualified for, a particular occupation.

In 1985/86 CPVE student numbers were 18,000 and in 1987/88 the numbers were 36,000 with 70% from comprehensive schools. However CPVE began to decline in popularity in 1990 with less than 30,000 registrations out of a year cohort of 400,000 (7.5%), the decline being most marked in colleges and less so in schools. Colleges preferred to opt for BTEC First Awards capitalising on the progression opportunities that BTEC National and Higher Awards offered. Schools offered the CPVE to bolster their 6th form numbers!

The demise of the CPVE was caused by a number of competing forces. Sadly division and stratification were manifest from its inception. Initially all the participating bodies bought into the development and the need to create a rationalisation of provision at 17+ but cracks soon appeared which reflected the weaknesses inherent in a voluntary philosophy so prevalent in the English education and training system. The RSA was the first to withdraw stating educational and financial reasons and then went on to produce its own pre-vocational and vocational qualifications. BTEC developed as mentioned above their own First Awards in direct competition to the CPVE. The FEU was left in the middle and voiced their concerns about the behaviour and so-called entrepreneurial role of the awarding bodies (1). As so often happens in education and training developments the problems are both educational and economic especially when the market is introduced into the landscape and this applies to the awarding bodies’ and their markets, as much as with the other key players. (I fear that the awarding bodies are even more market orientated now and some seem to equate education and training and its assessment to a hardnosed business!)

One fact that the CPVE highlighted was the important issue of progression. It did not offer clear opportunities as say other vocational awards did whether prevocational or vocational e.g. BTEC Firsts or CGLI foundation qualifications, and this represented a fundamental weakness. Also employers were reluctant to endorse the qualification or to employ students who had gained the CPVE as well as college admission tutors. But even so it was a brave and worthy attempt to offer a broad based qualification which was supported by many teachers in schools and colleges who enthusiastically tried to make the CPVE gain credibility and be recognised.

‘CPVE- Confusion or Deception.’ FEU 1985
Green. P. ‘The History and Development of CPVE.’ In Chitty.C. ‘Post-16 Education.’ISBN 0-7494 0097 8. Kogan Page Ltd. 1991.
‘CPVE in Action.’ FEU. 1985.
‘Progression from CPVE.’ FEU 1987
The Certificate of Extended Education (CEE) was basically a teacher-devised sequel to the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) and was a subject-based course and lacked any real vocational focus.

4 Responses to “Certificate of Pre- Vocational Education (CPVE) 1985-early 1990s.”

  1. Martin Whelan

    I’d be most grateful, if you could help me with the following;
    I’m trying to retrieve old C.P.V.E. certificates I completed June 1989. However, I don’t know where the T.V.E.I. archives are held.

    Martin Whelan.

  2. Gary Gannon

    I have a cpve qualification in construction joinery and have worked as a joiner all my life .im know thinking of emergrating and was wondering whether this certificate is any use or do I need to acquire more qualifications any help would be most appreciated

  3. Nina Jeremiah

    I’d be most grateful, if you could help me with the following;
    I’m trying to retrieve a copy of my C.P.V.E. certificate in Business and Finance I completed June 1987 (London). Please can you advise where i would be able to retrieve a copy. Please can you also advise whether the above qualification is equivalent to Maths/English GCSE grade C.

  4. Kelly robinson

    Hope you can help me when i did my C.P.V.E i was told it would work the same way as passing my gcse in grade a-c. Now i want to got for a job and they say for english and math I need a grade A-C gcse for the job will my C.P.V.E be enough.

    Hope to hear from you soon


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