Diplomas and 14-19 reforms

09 Jun 2009

  I have just chaired the first of several conferences on the 14-19 education reforms in England. This was in Newcastle, with other head teachers, principals and teachers joining by video link from Middlesbrough and Leeds.

There was, generally, cautious enthusiasm for the new 14-19 diplomas, although there are clearly still concerns over some of the practicalities of the reforms. These include: the problems of moving students and staff around in rural areas, how to achieve compatible timetables across school consortia, and the difficulties engaging employers in providing work placements.

Compared to a similar round of conferences last year - when there was much greater uncertainty about whether the diplomas would survive - this year there seems to be a greater determination to make the reforms work.

But there is still a long way to go. A big increase is needed from September on the 12,000 students who started on diploma programmes last year. The government is avoiding setting targets but I would think at least triple last year's numbers are required - probably more - to maintain momentum, especially as 5 more diploma lines will be starting this autumn.

Making curriculum reform change work involves a huge amount of work at grass-roots level: staff retraining, new timetables, changes to the curriculum, innovative use of technology, collaboration between schools and colleges, and a big selling job with potential students and parents.

 As schools and colleges get on with this, they must look askance at the merry-go-round of ministerial reshuffles and wonder what changes a general election might bring. Fortunately, there is no sign from the Conservatives that they would scrap - or radically change - the diplomas, so some continuity, and long-term planning, should remain possible even with the polls looming.



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