Headteachers’ views on the new 14-19 diplomas | Schools special reports | EducationGuardian.co.uk

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

A worrying report from The Guardian for the 14-19 Diplomas due to launch this year, one of which is aimed at the creative industries. Seems that heads are either lacking in knowledge of the qualification, or highly sceptical of it. I suspect the same is true of employers and universities, although they at least have three or four years before they’ll start to see applicants with the qualification. Schools, however, are a different matter as they’re supposed to be offering this to pupils in a few months.

The response from the government in the article seems somewhat blasé.

The government has a long way to go to convince secondary headteachers that their new, and much trumpeted, diplomas for 14- to 19-year-olds will be a success. This was one of the findings of a survey, published for the first time today, of 803 UK primary and secondary heads’ views.
The study, which quizzed heads on diplomas, social services, school trips and other topics in November and December, was carried out by Education Guardian and educational consultants EdComs, and administered by ICM.

It reveals that the majority of heads are cautious at best when it comes to the new diplomas, which will be offered from September. None of the secondary heads told pollsters they would definitely recommend the qualification to a student aspiring to go to university.

While the government’s chief qualifications and curriculum adviser, Ken Boston, has described diplomas as ‘the biggest development in examinations anywhere in the world’, heads are playing it safe before diving in.

More than a third of heads (35%) said they had not entered into a consortium of schools, further education colleges, businesses and other organisations to work together to deliver the diplomas. This is despite the fact that by 2013, a quarter of all 14- to 19-year-olds are expected to be sitting the qualification, and that five types of diploma begin next academic year.

Ninety-three per cent of heads told pollsters that parents and pupils were ‘not knowledgeable’ about the new qualifications. In fact, 19% said they themselves were ‘not very knowledgeable’ about it. Two-thirds said teaching staff at their schools were ‘not knowledgeable’ about them and 79% said the same for local employers.

This might be one of the reasons why 58% of heads said they had failed to garner support for the diplomas from local employers and were ‘unsatisfied’ by the interest businesses had shown in them.

And, worryingly, almost a third of secondary heads (31%) are in the dark about what diplomas actually are. They described them as ‘a vocational qualification, leading straight into employment’. In fact, they have been designed as a cross between the vocational and the academic. The most advanced diploma carries a higher score for university entry than three As at A-level.

Just 24% of secondary heads thought they would provide the academic rigour for progression to university.

When asked what the two biggest challenges for the diplomas were, the most frequent responses were getting university endorsement (46%) and getting parental endorsement (31%).

Mike Best, head of Beaminster secondary school, a mixed comprehensive in Dorset, took part in the survey. He says its results show ‘the future of the diploma is not clear as far as heads are concerned’.


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