From education to employment

Quality not quantity for new Diplomas

20,000 uptake lower than anticipated but Balls says Diplomas are “on track”

20,000 students are expected to study for the new Diplomas in September – less than half  the number originally projected. However, the Government have said the Diplomas are well on track with DCSF Secretary of State Ed Balls saying he was pleased with the progress of the new qualifications so far.
Mr Balls said: “It’s vital that we get this right and put quality first and that’s why we did not go for a big bang launch. This year about a quarter of schools and a half of colleges offered the Diploma and next year this will rise to nearly three quarters of secondary schools and almost nine out of ten of colleges offering the Diploma in September 2009.
“I want numbers studying the Diploma to evolve naturally, driven by growing excitement about what is on offer and by careful planning of study at local level.”
From September, students will be able to study the Diplomas in five areas – construction and manufacturing, IT, media and creative, engineering and Society Health and Development. Diplomas in further subjects such as business and manufacturing will become available in later years and by 2011 students will be able to choose from 17 different subjects.
Schools Minister Jim Knight said: “Students tell us they want flexible qualifications that match their ambitions. The Diplomas give them that starting point and the wide range of additional specialist learning modules that allow them to study according to their individual aspirations – from plumbers to architects, board room to workshop.”
The Association of College’s Director of Learning and Quality Maggie Scott said that it was about quality over quantity: “The greatest curriculum reform for a generation should be introduced with care and will not depend on high numbers in the first year. Colleges want to lead their partnerships to ensure their existing expertise is used from the start to create a high quality new successful qualification.”
She added “The retention of existing qualifications is a much needed safeguard until the Diploma has become recognised by parents, employers and higher education but AoC and colleges can see the point at which A-levels, BTEC Nationals and other qualifications that serve a purpose for learners might be placed under the Diploma umbrella.”
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU was also agreeable that introducing the Diplomas gradually was no bad thing. She said: “ Smaller numbers may not be a bad thing at this point as this always was a challenging timetable. This may allow more time for the necessary workforce awareness and development
“Lecturers are hoping that for those students taking diplomas this will be a worthwhile learning experience.”
The DCSF also announced details of the Additional and Specialist Learning (ASL) catalogue for the Diplomas which will allow students to tailor their study to their interests and undertake a Level 3 qualification such as a BTEC or City & Guilds.
Rosie Spowart

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