Is this the end of the road?


Ian Wright, the schools minister, said research showed that “top universities overwhelmingly back the Diploma, “which he called a fantastic route into both higher education and employment. There is spin and there is hyperbole. This is the latter. It was hard to believe when he said it, even harder now. The fact is the leading research universities had reserved judgement on the Diplomas and at best given them a lukewarm qualified acceptance, but still remained concerned about their lack of rigour.

The Minister had clearly not looked at the research himself, just the Press Release that came with it. The TES headline ‘Tories poised to dump diploma’ reflects the real crisis of credibility surrounding the new unloved qualification. In a nutshell  the Tories believe  it was poorly conceived, poorly managed and poorly sold, reflected in poor take up. They are concerned of course about those who have opted for the Diploma and are working out ways of ensuring that they are not left on the shelf. They have explicitly already rejected the more academically oriented Diplomas, and view the Diplomas as a compromise stitched together in the wake of Ruth Kelly’s rejection of the Tomlinson proposals. In short they were not demand led, too complex to fully understand and probably too costly. The Diploma  stands up neither as an academic nor a vocational qualification. If Wellington College can’t afford to run a few Engineering diplomas, which is the only Diploma it rated, one has to ask who can? Now even the TES has turned against the Diplomas. Of course we need both rigorous academic and vocational qualifications and it is an awful shame that so much energy and resources have been wasted on a qualification that nobody asked for in the first place. 

The Government should at the outset have listened to the key stakeholders. But they didn’t,pushing on regardless, prescrptive and unbending from the centre.There are far too many time servers in the education establishment who insist they know best, and  more often than not they dont, and their mistakes are costly in finanicial and educational terms. Whatever happened to evidence led policy?


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