Phoenix will offer the International IGCSE in all academic subjects. It is much better than ordinary GCSEs, yet it really isn’t any harder. IGCSE exams have a logical structure, so all learning builds on what the pupil already knows. By contrast, conventional GCSEs test a lot of unrelated concepts.
All pupils will study English, Maths, Science, History and Geography. They will be able to choose other subjects, such as Foreign Languages, Music, and Art and advanced ICT skills. We will use advanced software wherever it is appropriate, and all pupils will learn basic ICT skills.
Although teachers will use computers and educational software where needed, we do not believe that technology can replace human teachers. Nor will we offer Design and Technology. Most children already spend more time in a ‘virtual environment’ than they should. Relatively few jobs require advanced ICT skills, and in any case, specialist software and hardware develop so rapidly that skills taught in school will be obsolete by the time the pupil enters the workforce.
Most vocational qualifications are all but worthless. For instance, pupils can get a GNVQ in Hairdressing without ever cutting a single lock of hair—it’s considered “too dangerous” for pupils to pick up a pair of scissors. NVQs are rightly known as “no-value qualifications”, and they will almost certainly disappear in the Coalition’s reforms.
However, we intend to offer high-quality apprenticeships. Our pupils will be literate, numerate, and they will be used to doing what adults tell them to do. We will have a strong work-experience programme which will be open only to pupils who are prepared to work hard enough to make employers value them.
We understand that university is not for everyone. Many professional jobs—such as accounting and law—now offer direct apprenticeships. We also will seek out the best craft and engineering apprenticeships—we know that employers will be keen to attract young men and women who are literate, numerate and used to doing what adults tell them to do. However, we will not be offering vocational qualifications—most of which are all but worthless. For instance, pupils can get a GNVQ in Hairdressing without ever cutting a single lock of hair—it’s considered “too dangerous” for pupils to pick up a pair of scissors.