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Diplomas not: 'effective or coordinated' for teaching functional skills

Research from the government’s education watchdog Ofsed suggests that the new educational diplomas - designed to replace A-levels and GCSEs - have not yet been implemented effectively, and teaching has suffered in Maths, IT and English.

Five new diplomas were introduced last year. Diploma courses are run by consortia of schools and employers, with specific work placements for students. The five subject courses are in:

  • Construction and the built environment
  • Engineering
  • Creative and media
  • IT
  • Society and health

But the Ofsted research found that: “almost half the consortia visited had not established an effective, coordinated approach to teaching functional skills and, as a result, the quality of teaching and learning varied considerably.”

In addition: “The additional and specialised learning element of the Diplomas was underdeveloped in almost all the consortia visited. Recruitment to many Diploma courses, particularly at foundation and advanced levels, was lower than anticipated. Many young people had chosen Diploma subjects along traditional gender lines,” reads the report.

Many students did not appreciate that core skills of Maths, IT and English formed an integral part of the Diploma courses. The additional and specialised learning element of the Diplomas was underdeveloped in almost all the consortia visited.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, said it was not all bad news, but the implementation of the new diplomas had room to improve: “These reforms provide a wider range of options for young people and it is important they are implemented properly. Inspectors found a mixed picture but the introduction of the diploma programmes is still at a relatively early stage.

“It is particularly encouraging to see schools, colleges, training providers and local authorities working together to meet the needs of those who otherwise might not succeed at school. I hope others will learn from the good practice found in the report,” she said.

However, the report found that two thirds of specialist subject teaching on the Diploma courses was good, often drawing on good links with local employers.

Students benefited from specialist vocational teaching and high quality resources, while staff valued the professional development entailed in planning and teaching jointly with colleagues from other institutions, as school and colleges work in consortia to offer the courses together.

The report said increased collaboration and partnership would be the key to the successful roll-out of the Diploma courses.

Key recommendations from the report are:

  • For Diploma consortia to put procedures in place to assure the quality of collaborative provision,
  • Co-ordinate approaches to functional skills
  • Link work more closely to the principal learning in Diploma courses
  • Develop a more coherent range of additional and specialised learning options for Diploma students.

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