An Extended Diploma will be offered to young people in three years time, according to Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. He told the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Brighton last week that the Extended Diploma will build on the Diplomas that will start in September this year.

An Extended Diploma will be offered to young people in three years time, according to Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. He told the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Brighton last week that the Extended Diploma will build on the Diplomas that will start in September this year.

Taking the Expert Advisory Group’s advice, Mr. Balls assured that Extended Diplomas, available from September 2011, will provide a route to success for all young people. A unique blend of applied learning and theoretical knowledge, they are expected to approximate 4.5 A levels at the Advanced level, 9 GCSEs at the Higher level and 7 GCSEs at the Foundation level.

A strengthened core of English and maths will be a key feature of the new Extended Diploma at all levels. It will also offer a more in-depth grounding for research-intensive, independent study in each subject for those Advanced level students who want the stretch and challenge offered by a larger programme of learning. For young people aged 14 to 16, the Extended Foundation and Higher level Diplomas will incorporate more of the core national curriculum such as GCSE-level English, mathematics and science.

Mr Balls said: “The Diploma is an exciting qualification, attractive to students at all levels and providing the range of skills employers and universities want. As I said last October I believe Diplomas could become the qualification of choice for young people in the future.”

Gareth Cadwallader, Chair of the IT Diploma Development Partnership and Executive Director, Airas Intersoft., said: “Employers will welcome the decision to recognise broader programmes of study through the Extended Diploma. It is important that students can construct personalised programmes of learning and the Extended Diploma will support the many students who look for greater breadth and depth, recognising their achievement. We look forward to the opportunity to design additional Maths and English modules contextualised for our sectors.”

Widely welcoming further developments after the addition of the new diplomas, Deian Hopkin, Vice Chancellor, London South Bank University, said: “The Diploma is designed to ensure that the widest range of students are able to study for a qualification that meets their particular and, very often, different needs.”

However, the University and College Union (UCU) has expressed its concern over government’s announcements on certain educational reforms. Striking a note of warning, it has claimed that the 14-19 education system must be made less complicated to ensure that diplomas are a success. According to the university and college lecturers, new diplomas, to be phased in from September this year, must be made to work before any extended versions are introduced.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We owe it to young people to make the new diplomas work. The overriding need is to make the initial diplomas work at all three levels before adding to them and making them more complex.

“The value of diplomas must be understood and respected by universities so that diploma students can progress into higher education. It would be easier for everyone if A-levels, GCSEs and diplomas were brought into a more coherent and less confusing 14-19 system. College lecturers will do their very best to make the first wave of diplomas a success. Our members will embrace yet another initiative and we hope college employers will too, by bringing college lecturers' pay into line with that of school teachers.”

“The government is expected to report on a rationalisation of qualifications soon, perhaps within a month. We will have a better understanding of how the diplomas can best proceed when we have seen this.”

Rinku Chatterjee

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