Diplomas set for “vast majority” of schools

Nearly three quarters of secondary schools and the vast majority of colleges will offer students diplomas from this September.

Schools minister Jim Knight today confirmed 72 per cent of schools and 88 per cent of colleges will be ready to offer the new qualification from the next academic year.

All schools and colleges have had to pass through an assessment before they can teach the diplomas, the first of which will be offered in subjects including environmental and land-based studies, business, administration and finance.

By 2013 the government wants all schools and colleges to provide diplomas.

But the Conservatives have raised concerns over the future of A-levels, with ministers unable to rule out absorbing the traditional academic qualifications into the new-style diplomas.

Gordon Brown told the Commons today that A-levels would not be scrapped if they were successful, but was unable to guarantee their future beyond 2013.

The government has struggled to sell diplomas’ academic rigour to universities but Mr Knight today maintained they, alongside employers, were getting on board.

Mr Knight said diplomas were going from “strength to strength”, with increasing numbers of schools and colleges proving keen to offer them.

“I am extremely pleased that so many young people will have the chance to study diplomas from 2009,” he said.

Mr Knight continued: “We set the bar high, so that only schools and colleges that fulfilled our assessment criteria have been given the green light. We are confident that young people who take a diploma will have a high quality experience as they work towards their qualification.

“The number of schools and colleges that have been successful in their application to teach the diploma is testament to the fantastic work that is going on, at both a local and national level, to ensure this new qualification delivers for our young people.”

Teachers have, however, claimed they have not been given enough time to prepare for the September roll-out.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said more than half had not been given training and half had not had time to prepare coursework.