Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Friday, 26 January 2007

Diplomas 'must not be rushed in'

Ken Boston
Ken Boston: wants new diplomas to replace A-levels

The new Specialised Diplomas risk being rushed into England's schools next year before they are ready, the government's chief qualifications adviser has said.

The head of the QCA watchdog, Ken Boston, told MPs that higher-ability teenagers were dropping out of educationat the age of 16.

He hoped the new Diplomas would replace A-levels as their route to university.

But support would collapse if they were being taught "by 'disaffected teachers to disaffected students'," he said.

Dr Boston told the Commons education select committee: "I don't think those who are taking A-levels or other qualifications are necessarily the higher level of the ability range.

"I think we have got youngsters of great ability who are dropping out."

The new diplomas he hopes will appeal to them are intended to combine theoretical and practical learning.

Teacher training

Ultimately they will be available in 14 employment areas, with the first five due to be taught from next year.

National support for the diplomas will be destroyed if they are rushed into schools and taught by 'disaffected teachers to disaffected students'
Ken Boston
Those are creative and media, information technology, health and social care, construction and the built environment, and engineering.

The government's target is to have 50,000 young people studying for them.

A Conservative committee member, Rob Wilson, put it to him that this would require training another 5,000 teachers.

Dr Boston replied: "If the teachers are not there we won't get anything like 50,000.

"I certainly would argue very strongly that if it is a balance between hitting a target of 50,000 in the first year or maintaining standards right from the start, we go for standards.

"National support for the diplomas will be destroyed if they are rushed into schools and taught by 'disaffected teachers to disaffected students'.

"If we have that, we will fail."

Choice

The QCA's board has discussed widespread concerns about the introduction of the diplomas next year among industry leaders, exam boards and others involved in the process.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said every young person should have a choice of rigorous, challenging qualifications that suited their interests and abilities.

"This is the principle that underpins our secondary education and 14-19 reforms.

"We are expanding the availability of the International Baccalaureate, introducing new 14-19 Diplomas and making A-levels more stretching so that all young people have a choice to pursue the qualifications which are right for them."

The government was confident the Diplomas would be ready by next year.



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