Whitehall officials look for examination board to take over qualification from Edexcel

Plans to offer a GCSE in construction are still alive, despite examination board Edexcel’s decision to discontinue a pilot scheme last week.

Edexcel had been the only board considering setting the GCSE, however official in the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) are understood to be in talks with others about taking on the qualification.

The Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), which runs a pilot construction GCSE in Northern Ireland, said it may offer the exam to students elsewhere in the UK.

There was speculation that Edexcel had opted not to offer the course because of political pressure to push diplomas instead. The DCSF denied this, saying GCSEs fitted the “same vocational agenda” as diplomas. A departmental spokesperson said: “It’s part of our drive to make sure vocational qualifications are available to those who want to take them. Construction was always one GCSE we piloted that would continue.”

Edexcel was due to schedule its last construction GCSE examination for 2009 but it is now understood the board will run the pilot for a further year to give assessment centres time to switch over to BTEC qualifications. It has no plans to continue the GCSE after that time.

Also this week it emerged that training body ConstructionSkills is to become involved in running City & Guilds qualifications. Together, the bodies will form the “Construction Awards Alliance”.

This will offer more than 75 qualifications in 900 centres.