From education to employment

New streamlined qualification system for 14-19 education

Government announces new simple four-tiered structure for 14 – 19 year olds which sees the promotion of Diplomas.

The current qualification systems are to be simplified to offer young people, parents and employers more clarity, it was announced today.
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, pronounced the proposals would streamline the system to ensure all courses are well understood, valued, and offer young people a clear route into further study or skilled employment.
Ed Balls said: “The current qualification system is still too complex. It is often difficult for young people and their advisers to understand which will best meet their needs and support their aspirations. Not all the qualifications currently on offer enable young people to develop all the skills and knowledge they need, and that employers and universities want.”
The new proposals build on an existing vision and state there will be four key national qualification routes comprising GCSEs and A levels, Diplomas, Apprenticeships, and the Foundation Learning Tier.
“These will offer a range of choices from general education to job-specific, and will support learners of all abilities throughout the country. This clear new offer will build on the best of existing provision, but will also secure a coherent system of 14-19 education that is truly fit for the future.” Mr. Balls added.
The first review of the 14-19 qualification will take place in 2013 to evaluate the effect of the changes.
Hopes for the new qualification system are to raise the leaving age to 18 and encourage young people to keep learning through their lives. Existing qualifications in 14-19 education such as City & Guilds, BTECs and even eventually A-levels are likely to disappear or be absorbed into the Diploma.
In addition to simplifying the system a Joint Advisory Committee on Qualification approval will be set up to advise on whether qualifications should be approved for funding
Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Learners, said: “We are confident that these proposals will go a long way towards our aim of attracting more young people to learning, and enabling all young people to be taking qualifications that have a real standing with employers and the public at large.”
The proposals are welcomed by education institutions and are seen as a step forward for British schools and colleges.
Professor Deian Hopkin, Vice-Chancellor London South Bank University and Joint Chair, Higher Education Engagement Board agreed and stated “It provides clear navigation, demonstrates the various routes of progression into higher education and enables practitioners to engage even more closely in the development of a 14-19 curriculum which is appropriate for a rapidly evolving world.”
Maggie Scott, Director of Learning and Quality at AoC said: “The retention of existing qualifications is a much needed safeguard until the Diploma has proved itself and become recognised by parents, employers and HE. However we can see the point at which A-levels, BTEC Nationals and other qualifications that serve a purpose for learners might be subsumed under the Diploma umbrella. 
“Rationalisation of qualifications will create much-needed coherence but it won’t be the case that we will lose the benefits of well-respected existing vocational routes. Instead we expect Diplomas to eventually incorporate the best elements of those qualifications which are likely to be superseded.”
The UCU also broadly welcomed today’s announcements with General Secretary Sally Hunt, saying: “We see today’s announcement as a step in the right direction towards a single over-arching diploma. We realise that the current array of qualifications can be confusing for young people as they make choices about their futures although we do regret the loss of the BTEC and City and Guilds qualifications.
“We urge that the new system shouldn’t put learners in straightjackets: it is important that learners on Diplomas and GCSE and A-level courses can mix and match units to an extent.
“It’s also vital that the new system is inclusive in that it recognises and values the needs of all young people from those with learning difficulties through to the most able.”
Mr Balls also announced the Chairs of the Diploma Development Partnerships for the three new Diplomas in Science, Humanities and Languages. He added that he was confident the new, talented, experienced individuals would ensure three exciting diplomas.
Sheila Kjaerhus

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