Political cloud over diplomas
19 Sep 2009
It's a shame that the Conservatives have allowed a dark cloud to hang over the new 14-19 diplomas. This term tens of thousands of students have enrolled (we won't get the exact figures until next month) on diploma courses. They and their parents have put their trust in the diplomas.
Schools and colleges too have worked hard to deliver this new form of applied learning. There are some very positive signs: Ofsted has given the first year of the diploma an overall positive report and there is strong anecdotal evidence that the courses are motivating young people.
There is still, clearly, a big job to do. For exampkle, many young people remain unsure quite what teh diplomas are meant to be. But it seems wrong to undermine the qualification at this stage by allowing suggestions that a Conservative government would abolish the diplomas. A recent Times Education Supplement story - based on Conservative Party sources - suggested that the Tories would dump the diplomas.
When I checked this out with the Conservative Party there was a reluctance to go on the record to deny the story. However, off the record, I was told that it was wrong to suggest a Tory government would abolish the first 14 diplomas (although the fate of the final 3 diplomas, covering academic subjects, is already sealed).
Instead, I was told - unattributably - that the diplomas will be reviewed. Outright abolition was not an option, but nor was leaving them as they are.One likely option would be to remove the 'pump priming' funding that is designe dto get them established.
A review is perfectly reasonable - indeed after two full years it would be right to ask how the diplomas might be refined.
But it would be wrong at this stage to allow stories suggesting their demise to pull the rug on so much hard work by schools, colleges, and students.
For more on this, please see my column on the BBC News website: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8263091.stm