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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Schools to get 50m for diplomas
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter at the ATL conference

mechanic at work
The government wants to improve staying-on rates
Schools and colleges which offer diplomas in subjects like engineering and social care will get an extra 50m, the government has revealed.

The scheme, aimed at increasing school staying-on rates at 16, starts in 2008.

The Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, announced on Wednesday that more money was needed to make diplomas "high quality and engaging".

Schools wanting to teach the new diplomas will have to show they will collaborate with neighbouring schools.

The programme will be expanded to 14 areas, like sport and tourism, by 2010.

'Hand-in-hand'

Ms Smith told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference in Gateshead that the extra money would go on teacher training and recruiting more staff.

She added: "Record levels of investment, radical reform, and the hard work of education staff are working hand-in-hand to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

"But in the end it is only pupils' own hard work and the skill of teachers, lecturers and support staff that will guarantee success.

"That is why we will invest in the workforce, making sure that it has the skills, support and capacity to deliver high quality and engaging diplomas."

Workplace

The diploma programme will allow 14 to 19-year-olds to spend more time learning in the workplace.

But in February the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees exams and assessment, said employers were "not confident" they could give every student 10 days' work experience, which the government wants.

The UK has one of the lowest staying on rate for 16-year-olds in the developed world.

On Monday, ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said it was in danger of becoming the educational "sick man of Europe".

'Disparity in funding'

The Shadow Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said: "We welcome the announcement and the extra money for training.

"We need vocational education to be of a high quality, taught by people who are experienced and highly trained in their field."

The Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for education, Sarah Teather, said: "The government needs to wake up to the fact that we need a full scale reassessment of what is taught in secondary schools.

"Plans for a few new diplomas still preserve the divide between academic learning and vocational training," she said.

"We have to dispel the old fashioned idea that study is for the gifted and skills are only for the less bright."




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