Only 20,000 students have commited to taking the new diplomas courses to begin in September, according to information gleaned by NCE.
Diplomas will by for 14-18 year-olds and will begin in September in five subject areas:
Health and Development
Creative and Media
While no official targets have been given for the new diplomas, a figure of 160,000 was mentioned by the director of 14-19 education reform, Jon Coles last year, while schools minister Jim Knight told MPs last year that a 'ballpark' figure of 50,000 was expected.
A figure of 40,000 has been mentioned unoficcially, but NCE has learnt that the current figure is around half this figure.
Secretary for children, schools and families Ed Balls, is expected to announce the current figures in a statement later today.
Teaching unions have been critical of the roll-out of the new diplomas, which Mr Balls has suggested could eventually replace A-Levels.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has also been critical of the diploma in construction, saying it is 'flawed', and that employers were unclear of the role of the diploma.
Examination board Edexcel have also claimed teachers are unprepared for the diplomas.