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Funding arrangements to deliver diplomas also announced.

The value of the Government”s new Diplomas as a progression route enabling pupils to get into Universities and colleges was confirmed by both UCAS and the QCA. Schools Minister Jim Knight accepted the QCA’s recommendation that the new Diplomas should be judged equivalent to 5 GCSEs grade A*-G at the foundation level, 7 GCSEs grade A*-C at the higher level and 3.5 A Levels grade A*- E at the advanced level in the achievement and attainment tables. UCAS also confirmed the tariff to be awarded to the Advanced Diploma.

Jim Knight went on to confirm an investment of a further £45 million in teacher training to support the roll out of Diplomas in 2008/09.

The LSC have also confirmed their funding arrangements for schools, colleges and other providers delivering Diplomas to 16 to 18 year olds. Funding for post 16 students will follow the same principles as that for 14-16 year olds to allow consortia to coordinate their systems across the 14-19 age group.

Today’s new money builds on cash already invested in the system for 14-19 education over the next 3 years, including £110 million so that 14-16 year olds can get hands-on practical experience in schools, colleges and the workplace and £15 million to ensure joint working between schools and colleges.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: “Diplomas are the first qualification to be developed with such a high level of input from employers and universities. Today QCA and UCAS are confirming these are rigorous and challenging qualifications. Pupils can now be confident they will study valuable, first class qualifications when they take a Diploma, and universities and colleges can be assured of their quality. We have reached another important milestone in delivering the Diplomas, with the opportunity to combine theoretical and practical options that brings.

“We want Diplomas to give pupils access to the very best learning and that is why we are investing £45 million next year to support more teacher training plus a further £28 million to support Diploma learners aged 14-16. This is on top of the existing funding of £110 million to fund the higher costs of practical learning and £15 million to support joint working between schools and colleges”.

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Bill Rammell, Minister for Higher Education said:”I am pleased that the UCAS Board has agreed the tariff rating that will be applied to the new Diplomas, aligning them clearly with other qualifications that provide access to university.

“Higher education institutions have, and will continue to take an active involvement in developing these Diplomas so we can ensure they provide sound preparation for entry to higher education including for the most demanding university courses.”

Shadow Children’s Secretary Michael Gove was critical however: “The real test for the new diplomas is not what the Government says they”re worth but what universities and employers think they”re worth.

“Instead of more rhetoric aimed at undermining the A-level, ministers should concentrate on delivering better vocational qualifications for the thousands of young people not currently in education, employment or training.”

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