Committee of Public Accounts: Press Notice

PREPARING TO DELIVER THE 14-19 EDUCATION REFORMS IN ENGLAND

Publication of the Committee's 39th Report of Session 2007-08

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

"It is commendable to provide young people with opportunities to study for qualifications integrating academic and vocational learning. Making the new Diplomas work will require concerted and coordinated efforts by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and its partners. And that will include involving employers in providing essential work experience.

"The importance of getting this right cannot be overstated. Our Committee heard that some of the consortia responsible for delivering the Diplomas were much more advanced than others in their preparations. For instance, just under half of the consortia had yet to determine whether they had enough appropriately skilled teaching staff to deliver the full range of Diplomas by 2013.

"This need for a large proportion of the consortia to be better prepared must be addressed. It demonstrates that, despite the leading role played by local authorities, the Department will have to continue for some years to play a major role in delivering these educational changes.

"The new Diplomas could further complicate the already complex choice of qualifications at ages 14 and 16. Young people must make the right educational choices and that means that they and their parents require clear and complete information on what's available. They will also want to be convinced that higher education institutions and employers accept the Diplomas as credible qualifications."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 39th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, examined giving all young people access to Diplomas; reducing complexity and communicating simply; and having the capability to deliver the reforms.

The 14-19 education reform programme aims to increase young people's participation in education and training beyond age 16 and raise their educational attainment. Central to the programme are new Diploma qualifications in 14 different occupational areas that offer a blend of academic and vocational learning.

Young people have a complex choice of qualifications at ages 14 and 16. The Diploma is seeking to provide a qualification that will be attractive to them, to higher education institutions and future employers. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (the Department) has involved universities and employers in designing the Diplomas and developing their content. As new qualifications, there is still much work to be done to convince parents, employers and universities that Diplomas are a credible alternative to existing qualifications. To help make the qualifications more understandable, the Department and its partners need to demonstrate clearly how Diplomas will help young people progress into further learning and employment.

The 14 new Diplomas are being introduced between September 2008 and 2013, and will offer a mix of academic and vocational learning. By 2013, the Department is aiming for all young people in England to have access to all 14 Diplomas at three different skill levels. To provide good quality opportunities for young people across the full range of Diplomas, local providers of education and training must collaborate closely, for example to share the expertise and facilities relevant to occupational skills such as engineering, construction and media.

Work to prepare to offer the Diplomas is being undertaken at local level by consortia of schools, colleges and others, led by local authorities. At present, some consortia are much further ahead than others. The Department has been focusing support on those consortia that are due to offer Diplomas in their area from September 2008, which are generally the most advanced. Less well advanced consortia will need increasing assistance if they are to be able to offer Diplomas in later years. In particular, they will need to secure good quality facilities, make it easier for local employers to get involved, and support teaching staff to gain skills and knowledge appropriate to Diplomas.

To date, the Department has spent £590 million on the programme. It has not yet established cost estimates built up from the local level for delivering Diplomas, and has only just begun surveying local authorities to assess their capital requirements.