Thursday, 10 May 2007

Specialised Diplomas and Languages

The introduction of specialised Diplomas is key to the 14-19 reform. According to the DFES, Diplomas will give young people a real alternative to traditional learning by offering an imaginative, high quality, innovative blend of general education and applied learning. Diplomas will take a young person wherever they want to go, whether that is to further or higher education or to the world of work.
More details at:

The DfES wants to develop a coherent 14-19 phase of education where young people are committed to continuing learning whether in school, college or the workplace. There will be general and specialist courses and qualifications, covering a wide range of subjects and skills that meet individuals' needs and aspirations. Providers will work collaboratively to supply programmes and guidance that support all young people to enter further and higher education or employment with training.

The 14-19 strategy will:
Encourage more people to stay in education beyond the age of 16 and reduce the perception that the end of compulsory education is an appropriate point at which to stop learning
Address the weaknesses in the current system which mean that many young people are already disengaged from learning by Key Stage 4, either because they are insufficiently stretched by their studies, because they lack confidence in their own abilities, or because they are not attracted by what is currently on offer
Address the narrowness of programme studied by many learners in the 16 to 19 age group who are pursuing traditional Level 3 courses
Address the weaknesses of the vocational offer that has been available to young people in the past

The wider pictureThe DfES's aim for our education system is to give every young person the opportunity to maximise their opportunities in life — personal and professional. It believes that this aim will be achieved by 'personalising learning', especially by increasing the curriculum flexibility and choice at 14-19, thus enabling teaching to be tailored to individuals' learning styles and needs, and improving community and employer involvement in education.

No institution acting alone will be able to provide the full 14-19 offer to their learners. Schools, colleges, training providers, employers and other stakeholders will necessarily have to collaborate, focusing on what they do best to deliver the new curriculum.

A detailed guide to the new diplomas can be found at :

A Diploma will be available at three levels (Level 2 being equivalent to GCSE A* -C) made up of three components:

Principal learning: the knowledge, skills, understanding, attributes relevant to an industrial/commercial sector. (approx. 60 -65% of course at Level 2)
Additional/specialist learning: specialised or complementary learning students choose to add to their programme. (approx. 12 -15% of course at Level 2)
Generic learning: problem solving and thinking skills, teamwork etc. and the new Functional skills in Maths, English and ICT. (approx. 25% of course at Level 2).

In broad terms, diplomas will be delivered in 90 minutes per day at Level 1, two hours a day at Level 2 and three hours a day at Level 3. It will be for schools to work out their own specific curriculum patterns, but there will quite possibly be overlap between the contents of diplomas and other KS4/5 courses: and so it will not necessarily be a case of 5 or more GCSEs plus a diploma, which is, in itself a level 2 qualification and therefore nominally worth 5 GCSE’ at A*-C. All must study the core (English, Maths and Science; about half of available curriculum time) and the foundation subjects (ICT, PE, citizenship plus religious and work related learning and sex education).
Every student will eventually be offered each Diploma line and a choice from the areas of design and technology; the arts; the humanities and modern foreign languages; so competition will be as tough as it is now unless some kind of positive discrimination is applied to Languages. the diploma.
For 2008 it is planned to introduce diplomas in 5 areas or ‘lines of learning’. The exact structure and content of diplomas is, at this point in time, still undecided. The main concerns expressed about the diploma development process have been with its timescale. For a qualification system this complex a 2008 development deadline looks perilously close. There will not be time for extensive piloting; the diplomas will be with schools by September 2007 in order for them to be taught from the following year.
The teacher union ATL points out that, in this time, the necessary CPD will need to have taken place. Not all will be able to begin offering the Diplomas from 2008 though: schools will need to have passed through what DfES term the ‘Gateway’, an examination of their readiness to offer the diploma. The first tranche of schools will be those well placed to make a success of it all. A second set of five diplomas will follow in 2009, with a final four completing the picture in 2010. Already, there are whispers that the final offer will be less than the 14 currently proposed; but we shall have to wait and see.
Other key documents about the diploma can be found at :

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