PLANS for a GCSE in construction took a step forward last week when the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority approved the first pilot course.
Awarding authority Edexcel is set to launch the examination in Construction and the Built Environment with 1,000 students across 50 schools and colleges next September.
Students can sit for a single or double award, studying units in more traditional crafts such as carpentry and joinery, bricklaying and building services.The course also offers a grounding in skills needed for technical and professional occupations such as project managers, surveyors and civil engineers.
Sheila Hoile, CITB-ConstructionSkills director of training strategy, said: 'A GCSE in construction will provide an important progression route into the industry and an opportunity for young people to make informed choices about the wide range of careers offered by the sector.
'Simply by offering this GCSE as part of the curriculum, it will introduce construction careers to a much broader range of pupils than the industry can currently reach.'
The course, which will be delivered in partnership with further education colleges, also features workplace visits, units on sustainability in the built environment and places a heavy emphasis on health and safety, with continuous teacher assessment.
CITB-ConstructionSkills is looking at how much it will cost each centre to run the GCSE, but it is understood that the majority of centres offering the course already have craft and technology departments.
Edexcel is working on estimates of around 20 pupils per class.
Chief executive John Kerr said: 'I believe it may go some way to encouraging young people to consider vocational courses from an early age.'
A second awarding authority, City & Guilds, is also close to gaining approval for a pilot construction GCSE course, which is expected to be launched next September.