Tuesday 6 November 2007

The original purpose of Diplomas

My old friend - and occasional sparring partner - Graham Lane has transformed himself from the voice of local education authorities to a champion of Diplomas. In that capacity, he takes me to task for my supposed ignorance of the new qualification in my recent Guardian article. I fear it is he who is displaying an ignorance of their history when he says "it is not true that diplomas were first announced in 2005 as a vocational alternative to A-levels". In fact, that was always how Tony Blair saw them, and he was right to do so.

Of course, as I said in my article, these would not be traditional vocational qualifications.
"Unlike apprenticeships, they would not be predominantly work-based, and would mix "theoretical and practical learning"; but unlike A-levels, students would also have to do English, mathematics and IT. This reflected the view of employers that such a mix is more suited to modern business."
Graham then ignores my praise for his engineering Diplomas as a likely route to university to make a silly point about hair and beauty Diplomas: I didn't argue that no student would want to progress, but that most would do a level 2 Diploma - "in the hope of starting work or an apprenticeship thereafter". That is precisely what most people involved in developing the qualifications think too. What is most worrying about Graham's response is that he seems more concerned with defining Diplomas generally than selling the potentially excellent engineering Diploma to parents, teachers and pupils. Which was precisely my point.

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