Govt ‘botched introduction of diplomas’

In some areas of the country, fewer than ten teenagers are studying the government’s new diploma qualifications, figures suggest.

The statistics from the Conservatives claim that many local authorities around the country have not shown the predicted interest in taking up the exams.

The government hopes the new diplomas will appeal to those of secondary school age and may eventual replace GCSEs and A-Levels.

In Wakefield, Blackburn and Harrow less than ten pupils are taking the exams, today’s release claims.

The Tories suggest that 12,000 pupils in England began diplomas in September, less than a quarter of the 50,000 predicted by the government two years ago.

The opposition blame the low uptake on confusion caused by the schools secretary Ed Balls when he announced that three academic diplomas would be added to the existing vocational qualifications.

Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said: “We want vocational diplomas to succeed as a high quality alternative to academic education. But the government has botched their introduction by generating confusion about what they are all about.

“Tony Blair said diplomas should be separate from A-levels and he would keep the A-level gold standard, but Ed Balls says diplomas could replace A-levels. No wonder teachers and parents don’t know where they stand.

“The resulting confusion has led to tens of millions of taxpayers’ money being spent on diplomas with only a few thousand pupils actually doing them.

“After the SATs fiasco, chronic delays to the government’s school building programme and the ongoing chaos surrounding EMA payments, this yet again it calls into question the ability of Ed Balls’s department to deliver a large-scale project.”

In response, Jim Knight, the Schools minister, described the Tories decision to selectively highlight diploma uptake in different areas of the country as “absurd and wrong”.

“This is the first year of a five-year roll out of the diploma programme and we always planned that they would only be available in some areas of the country to start with,” he said.

“Instead of trying to undermine diplomas, it’s time the Tories started to actually understand them. They’re not vocational qualifications, but a mix of theoretical and work-based learning which will break the old divide between academic and vocational learning.”