Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 11:04 UK

Pupils 'confused' by exams maze

A-level exam room
A-levels are just one of a range of qualifications to choose from.

The range of qualifications now on offer in England is leaving teenagers "bewildered", teachers are warning.

As well as GCSEs and A/AS-levels there are National Vocational Qualifications, BTecs, apprenticeships and now the new Diploma and Pre-U as well as the IB.

At the conference of education union Voice teacher Simon Smith says these need reform in a way students, parents, teachers and employers can understand.

The government says it is simplifying the "alphabet soup" of qualifications.

Mr Smith was telling the conference in Daventry: "We have recently had the Diploma introduced to provide a qualification more suited to modern needs, but it seems to me it's simply becoming an addition to what's already on offer."

In September, some schools and colleges in England will begin teaching the new Diploma in five subjects - construction, IT, engineering, media and health.

'Alphabet soup'

It is expected some 20,000 teenagers will take the courses, which combine theoretical and practical learning alongside work experience.

Eventually Diplomas in 17 subjects will be offered, including languages, science and humanities.

But this year alone, the exams watchdog has approved two other A-level options, the Cambridge Pre-U and AQA's English Baccalaureate.

Mr Smith, a design and technology teacher from Rayleigh, Essex, was proposing a motion arguing that the current range of qualifications is too confusing.

He says employers are taking a gamble when they employ someone based on their qualifications because they no longer know what they mean.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said it wanted to see an end to the "alphabet soup" of qualifications.

"That's why our qualifications strategy looks to simplify qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds," he said.

"We have already made clear that in the future we expect there to be four key national qualifications suites and frameworks on offer - these are GCSEs and A-levels; Diplomas; apprenticeships; and the Foundation Learning Tier which consists of courses that cover the basics."

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