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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
New Diplomas welcomed
There was a broad welcome for the government's announcement of new Diplomas and the postponement of the review of A-levels to 2013.

Diana Warwick, chief executive, Universities UK

We are pleased that universities will be closely involved in the design and principles for these new Diplomas. Ensuring that the Diplomas genuinely provide an appropriate progression route on to higher education is key.

This builds on our involvement with the first tranche of Diplomas - the sector-based Diplomas - which will be rolled out over the next three years.

We recognise that the aim is to provide a new route to both employment and HE, and as such, they form one element in a wider strategy for transforming the education landscape.

The sector will also be pleased that the proposed review of A-levels has been put back to 2013. This will support and strengthen the A-level and allow 'bedding in' time for the many changes to the current A-level specification - such as the extended project and the introduction of greater 'stretch' which universities have called for.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general, Russell Group of universities

The Russell Group welcomes the Diploma as a means of expanding the opportunities for potential students from a broader mix of backgrounds and educational experiences to progress to higher education.

We recognise the importance of the aims of the Diploma in encouraging students to apply academic learning in a practical context; in tailoring the curriculum to the needs of the student; and in attempting both to stimulate the low achiever and stretch the brightest.

We particularly welcome the introduction of a science Diploma as we are still concerned about the low proportion of students - largely from state schools - taking science A-levels.

However, we are concerned to ensure that the Diploma sufficiently equips candidates with the skills and knowledge they need to flourish on our courses.

Our member universities are in the process of assessing the academic rigour and general suitability of the Diploma as a route to higher education.

Several have already signalled their intention to accept the engineering Diploma, most usually in combination with a maths A-level as part of the required additional specialist learning.

We also look forward to be playing a key role in shaping the development of the new raft of diplomas.

Prof Steve Smith, chair, 1994 Group of universities

The 14-19 Diplomas offer the potential to become a radical alternative to the existing curriculum.

We recognise the strong potential the Diplomas offer to provide the stretch that is needed to demonstrate the quality of school leavers at the highest level of achievement, but also, through a more holistic approach to the secondary educational experience, their ability to broaden the horizons of even the most disaffected pupils.

As part of the 1994 Group's strong commitment to the student experience, the Group is currently engaged in a joint project with the DCSF to assess the impact of the 14-19 curriculum reforms on our member institutions to ensure that students who have taken the new Diploma qualifications are able to be welcomed onto degree courses at the very best universities. The project outcomes will be published in January 2008.

The Group's work on 14-19 reform is reflective of our member institutions strong shared belief in the role that universities play within the wider community.

Dr John Dunford, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders

As the new qualifications are developed, there are three things that school and college leaders will be looking for.

First, there must be a clear relationship between the Diploma courses and GCSEs, A-levels and BTecs to ensure that we end up with a coherent system.

Second, adding three more diplomas to the 14 already under construction by 2011 is a huge programme for an education system that is punch-drunk with change in recent years. The timescale for change will need to be considered carefully.

Third, if every young person really is to have a genuine entitlement to choose from 17 Diplomas, that represents a complex and potentially costly task for the 600 to 700 school and college partnerships that will need to be formed.

We welcome the move towards a more coherent qualifications system, but the devil will be in the detail of curriculum, assessment, links to other courses, partnership and timing. We look forward to being part of the development process.

Martin Johnson, acting deputy general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

This timid government has bottled it again - rejecting for the second time in three years a need to reform A-levels and GCSEs.

ATL believes today's youngsters need a better curriculum offer and more meaningful qualifications now. And although the Diploma has the potential to be that better offer for some youngsters, it does not look like meeting the gap in provision for our least successful 16-year-olds.

ATL is also disappointed that the Expert Advisory Group is not thought to need the expertise of those who will have to teach these new courses and who understand the needs of their students.

Chris Banks, chair, Learning and Skills Council

This is very good news, and will be welcomed by all those involved in the provision of 14-19 education and training.

From my own position, being involved in both industry and education, I can say that I am sure this will be welcomed particularly by employers.

It is a clear and emphatic statement that the government recognises the place of applied learning in all curriculum areas, and is a further step towards a coherent and comprehensive offer for all young people, offering a wide range of entry points and learning pathways, covering a broad range of skills.

Maggie Scott, director of learning and quality, Association of Colleges

This announcement suggests that 2013 could be D-Day - when Diplomas might become the single qualification of choice for young people.

The postponement of an A-level review certainly indicates that government will make a fundamental decision about level-three qualifications in the future.

The shift to include science, languages and humanities in the Diploma delivery signals a departure in government thinking; by introducing traditional subjects into the Diploma lines they are helpfully promoting a further breakdown between academic and other types of learning.

It is particularly poignant that areas such as languages and science which generate greatest concern in the curriculum in terms of take-up have been singled out for Diploma delivery, indicating that traditional methods of delivery are turning students off and new schemes of life-relevant learning (in which colleges specialise) are key to reinvigorating subjects.

Chris Keates, general secretary, NASUWT teachers' union

If the secretary of state's strategy of bringing together the CBI, universities and the Tomlinson lobby ends the constant bickering about the merits of Diplomas versus A-levels then it will be a most welcome development.

These are important reforms which are intended to address a major generational problem of non-participation in education and training post-16.

Engaging young people in learning and ensuring their continued motivation and participation are key educational and economic challenges. Identifying the most effective ways of widening participation, broadening and extending skills and securing parity of esteem between vocational and academic courses is critical.

The Diplomas have the potential to do make an important contribution to securing these outcomes.

The extension of the suite of Diplomas to include science, humanities and modern languages will address the concerns of some practitioners that these subjects may have become marginalised within the existing Diploma structure.

Postponing the review of A-levels until 2013 will come as a relief to some. It will however be important that the continuation of A-levels is not used as an opportunity to downgrade or sideline the Diplomas.

The critical challenge now is to identify the best way to build capacity in schools and colleges to manage this extensive curriculum change.

Richard Lambert, director general, Confederation of British Industry

We at the CBI welcome the Diplomas. We think that it's a good idea to delay the review of A-levels and GCSEs for a few years until one can get a better view of how this all works.

I think that these Diplomas will make a real difference - a positive difference to the education system provided they are fully understood, strongly communicated and absolutely backed by parents, colleges and universities, young people of course and business as well, and if those can all come together in a positive way I think this will be very good news.

Andy Powell, CEO, educational foundation Edge

Edge is committed to raising the status of practical and vocational learning and, while welcoming the concept of introducing more Diplomas, believe that they should have a more truly vocational basis.

Diplomas are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the education system to ensure young people can learn in a practical and hands-on way.

But the quality of these qualifications depend on how well teachers and lecturers are trained to deliver them and whether local employers are prepared to work closely with schools and colleges in their implementation.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls on new diplomas

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