Friday, 7 March 2008

We need clear choices on A levels and Diplomas, not confusion

Ed Balls is announcing plans for a higher-value extended Diploma today. In principle, it is a good thing to provide a Diploma route for the most able students. But if students want to take a stretching academic Diploma, the International Baccalaureate is a much better option mixing a broad range of subjects, and it already has strong credibility. Moreover, the government is running before it can walk on Diplomas: it is not yet clear whether there will be the 40,000 takers from September for the first five Diplomas. I hope there are, but today's announcement could confuse potential takers rather than illuminate them. And finally, Ed Balls should be less churlish about A-levels. The idea that Diplomas will replace A-levels is fanciful: they are different qualifications, each with their own strengths; to pretend otherwise simply encourages people to keep demanding the emasculation of GCSEs and A-levels.

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