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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Guide to the new diplomas
The blueprint for the future of secondary schooling in England proposed by Mike Tomlinson's team involves interlocking four-level diplomas to replace the current range of academic and vocational qualifications.

Entry LevelFoundationEntry to employmentIntermediate OpenIntermediate SpecialisedIntermediate ApprenticeshipsAdvanced OpenAdvanced SpecialisedAdvanced apprenticeshipsHigher Education / Employment


The report envisages youngsters progressing at their own pace, pursuing options best suited to their aptitudes - levels could be mixed and are not tied to particular ages.

In addition to a mandatory Core involving such things as functional communication and numeracy skills, there would be up to 20 "lines of learning".

Entry Level

Equivalent to the current Entry Level Certificates. Intended mainly to recognise the attainment of students with special educational needs.

Assessment mainly within schools. Not graded.

Foundation

Broadly equivalent to the current GCSE grades D to G, Level 1 NVQ and others.

Intended to recognise as a significant achievement the work of those characterised in the present system by failing to reach higher-grade GCSEs.

Assessment mainly within schools. Graded fail, pass, merit or distinction.

Specialised options might lead people into work-related courses.

These lower-level diplomas might lead youngsters on to E2E courses:

Entry to Employment

Aimed at those aged 16-18 who are not in learning.

They are designed to bolster their personal confidence and given them basic skills that might lead on to a Modern Apprenticeship, further learning or work.

Intermediate

The equivalent of the current GCSE grades A* to C, Intermediate GNVQ, Level 2 NVQ and others.

Success in components at this level would count towards the next level of diploma - reinforcing the aim of keeping in education people who might now leave at the age of 16.

Assessment mainly within schools. Graded fail, pass, merit or distinction.

In addition to a mandatory Core involving such things as functional communication and numeracy skills, there would be up to 20 "lines of learning".

Diplomas within each learning "line" would be named after their main content - for example, science and mathematics; leisure, travel and tourism; languages, literature and culture.

One "line" would be "open", to allow a mixture similar to the present mixed programmes of A-levels, GCSEs or equivalent vocational qualifications.

Specialised diplomas - which would be for those aged over 16 - would allow progression within more vocational or academic lines of learning.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships combine vocational main learning, in the form of NVQs and technical certificates, with a core of key skills and other components - so are already close to the proposed diplomas.

The report proposes they should take in the same Core learning skills proposed for all diplomas.

But it says they should retain their distinctive identity, certified by sector organisations, while providing credits towards intermediate or advanced diplomas - perhaps through "bridging programmes".

Advanced

The present AS-level, A-level and Advanced Extension Awards, Level 3 NVQ, BTec Nationals and others.

Assessment remaining a balance between external exams and in-course assessment.

Graded fail, pass, merit or distinction. Some components graded fail/E/D/C/B/A/A+/A++.

Diplomas within each learning "line" would be named after their main content - for example, science and mathematics; leisure, travel and tourism; languages, literature and culture.

One "line" would be "open", to allow a mixture similar to the present mixed programmes of A-levels, GCSEs or equivalent vocational qualifications.

Specialised diplomas would allow progression within more vocational or academic lines of learning.

Higher education and employment

The Tomlinson report says it is widely accepted that the most able must be stretched, that vocational courses should also lead into higher education and that basic skills need emphasising - including the ability to manage your own learning.

The intention therefore is to "stretch" brighter youngsters' attainments.

As well as diploma grades, a detailed transcript would include component marks and other relevant information about people's interests and achievements.

The new extended project - a written report, product, piece of artwork or performance - would further demonstrate what people were capable of.

The report argues that the need for universities to develop their own admissions tests would be reduced.

The recent Schwartz report on university admissions recommended students' applying after their exam results were known.

Tomlinson says the diploma system would be flexible enough to allow for this.




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