Vocational training in the Performing Arts at level III from 1987-2002
This research seeks to open up a field of enquiry which has not yet been addressed and which has lacked even detailed description. The Performing Arts is a combination of discrete 'subjects' sharing the common aim of practical performance as a vocational outcome. In 1987 the BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts appeared as an important new development in this field. Ten years later, in response to a desire for a unified system of qualifications, a'General National Vocational Qualification' (GNVQ) in Performing Arts and Entertainment Industries was introduced as a vocational alternative, equivalent to A-levels. The key question of this research is: 1 "What has been the legacy for vocational training in the Performing Arts of the BTEC qualifications in that field from 1987 to 2002? " Within this question, the research will examine the extent to which the vocational training provided was perceived to be appropriate for students' career ambitions During this period, the Government sought to reform vocational training by introducing the GNVQ in Performing Arts and Entertainment Industries. This research also seeks to understand the impact of GNVQ on the BTEC developments and vice versa. There are accordingly two subquestions: 2 "What has been the nature and the cause of changes which have occurred in the BTEC National Diploma qualifications over this timeframe? " 3 "What were the consequences for vocational training in the Performing Arts of the introduction of a GNVQ generated by national policy initiatives? " The main methods employed in this research were drawn from a positivist/ empiricist paradigm. A form of 'triangulation' was adopted using questionnaire surveys for students and teaching staff complemented by interviews with three specific groups of curriculum developers representing the introductory, implementation and further development stages of the qualifications. In addition, the researcher drew on his personal involvement in the field at the national level giving a unique access to relevant documentation from the bodies concerned. The main findings are shown to be due to differences in the way curriculum policy was formulated and implemented for the two qualifications. The National Diploma survived the introduction of the original GNVQ despite the strong government support for the latter and the desire to rationalise qualifications. The National Diploma followed an 'evolutionary' development generated by practitioners. It addressed the various component disciplines of the Performing Arts in a balanced way and was predicated upon the assumption that students hoped to have a career as performers. By contrast, the GNVQ was handed down within a predetermined framework that gave little autonomy to teachers, it was generic, overly bureaucratic and based on the assumption that students' performance ambitions were unrealistic.