Diploma students left to dangle in wind
22 Jul 2010
The government's approach to Diplomas continues to leave students in a terrible limbo. The qualification is being neither supported nor abolished - but all the signs are that it is being left to die from neglect.
This must be terribly depressing for students who will be getting their diploma results this summer - they must be wondering how much longer their qualification will be around and recognised by universities and employers. And what about those students who are in the middle of their courses?
The latest blow to the reputation of the diploma is the news that the Gateway process (the quality control for schools wanting to embark on teaching diploma courses) is being abandoned. This is how the government has justified the announcement:
"There is considerable expertise now after four Gateways in local authorities, schools and colleges. So, for starts from 2012 onwards, there will be no requirement to obtain approval from the Department for Education before delivering new Diploma subjects."
The government is also relaxing the requirement for schools to collaborate on diploma teaching. One of the good aspects of the diploma has been the spread of co-operation between schools and between schools and FE colleges. However, it seems reasonable to let this happen where schools wish to do so, not to require it.
All other changes, however, suggest - at best - indifference to the fate of a qualification which many schools have invested in with large amounts of time, effort and money. It is also a qualification that thousands of students have chosen after reassurances by the last government that this would be a recognised pathway to employment or HE. While the new government can legitimately say they did not introduce the diploma, equally they did not say at the time that they would fail to support it. Students will feel they are being cut adrift; teachers will feel let down.
While declaring neutrality towards the diploma, ministers are actually cutting it back and removing support, including:
- ending the 'entitlement' to diplomas for all students that was due to come into effect from 2013;
- stopping support provided through Consortium Advisers from the end of July 2010;
- scaling back the offer of bespoke training to focus on areas where Ministers consider the learner experience may otherwise be at risk, e.g. Diploma administration;
- stopping central support on the assessment of Diplomas;
- removing funding for Diploma Development Partnerships;
- axing the Extended Diploma
This means that the centrally funded 14-19 workforce support programme is coming to an end in its current form from the end of August 2010. The closure of the programme also means that the services that have been provided by the regional field forces, such as the Consortium Advisers and Regional Advisers, will also finish by the end of August.
Commenting on the changes, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT said: "It is nothing more than a cowardly way of abolishing diplomas and the thousands of young people who would have had their life chances enhanced by them."