Education and Skills Committee

17 May 2007

Education and Skills Committee urges slow roll-out to avoid pitfalls with new 14-19 Diplomas

A report today from the Education and Skills Committee expresses serious concerns about the readiness of 14-19 Diplomas for introduction. It urges the Department for Education and Skills to treat the first year of the Diplomas as a genuine pilot, and as an opportunity to remedy any problems arising.

Five Diplomas will be taught in a number of limited areas from 2008; the remainder will be rolled out progressively, with the intention that they are available to any student from 2013. It is essential expansion of the scheme takes place at a slow and controlled rate, the report says. All too often, initiatives in the past have been rolled out in a rushed manner.

Barry Sheerman MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"The Government must ensure the Diplomas are a success from their inception. These Diplomas have the potential to offer a unique and valuable pathway to skills and qualification for young people. This is an opportunity too precious to miss."

The report also expresses the Committee's disappointment that the Government did not adopt the proposals for change in the Tomlinson report1 more wholeheartedly. The rejection of the overarching Diploma award that Tomlinson proposed makes it even more important that 14-19 Diplomas are viewed as high-quality awards, which offer something new, different and exciting from existing qualifications, the report says.

During its inquiry the Committee heard evidence of a pressured development process for the first five diplomas, a lack of clear management oversight, and insufficiently early involvement of some key players - such as teachers, lecturers and awarding bodies. While it commends the introduction of better management methods now, the Committee hopes lessons have been truly learned and past errors will not affect the quality of the end products.

The inquiry also raised questions about the long-term structure of the entire post-14 examinations system. It urges the Department for Education and Skills to postpone its planned review of A levels next year, so that the experience of the new Diplomas can be taken into account and the review can take a more coherent look at all the options available to 14-19 year olds.

1. In October 2004 the Government-commissioned Working Group on 14-19 reform, chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson, brought forward wide-ranging proposals for changes to the examinations system. The Government laid out its response in February 2005 in its White Paper, 14-19 Education and Skills.