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Academic diplomas a distraction says CBI

The government's plans to introduce humanities and languages to its diploma strategy could undermine the integrity of GCSEs and A levels, says the CBI.

The CBI gave its approval to 'vocational' diploma subjects, such as construction or engineering, but today urged the government to think again about its plans for a new wave of academic diplomas.

CBI director-general Richard Lambert said: "There has been genuine enthusiasm for the sector-specific, vocational diplomas as firms recognise that they have the potential to add real value to students who are keen to learn in-depth about a particular sector and gain vital employability skills. However, introducing a range of science, humanities or languages diplomas runs the risk of undermining the integrity of traditional academic subjects."

The CBI say GCSEs and A Levels should be protected to give young people the skills and knowledge to succeed.

Employers are worried new diplomas in humanities, languages and sciences, to be rolled-out in the comins years.

CBI members fear they would not have any greater value to young people or to employers than the existing GCSEs or A levels, and would instead be an unnecessary distraction. The CBI wants the government to concentrate on raising literacy and numeracy standards and increasing the numbers of pupils studying science, technology, engineering and maths.

Employers have consistently backed the government's sector related diplomas, e.g. in hospitality or engineering, as a parallel qualification to GCSEs and A levels. They were created with substantial business input and retain the strong support of employers.

In its submission to the government today on reform of the qualification system for the 14 to 19-year-olds, CBI argues for the retension and improvement of the GCSE and A levels system, which employers understand and trust, to ensure they are of a high quality.

The employers' body is also urging policy-makers to develop the potential of vocational diplomas but not to introduce academic ones, which employers do not see as adding value to GCSEs or A levels. CBI also wants the government to simplify the diploma structure to two levels - one for 14 to 16-year olds, and one for 16 to 18 year-olds, with grades so employers can properly gauge achievement.

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