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The Diploma – the story so far
T’S BEING championed by captains of
industry and welcomed into the heart of Ray Isaacs, Diploma in Information Technology tutor
higher education, but six months in, how are at Gleed Girls Technology school, Lincolnshire
busy teachers and tutors finding the Diploma?
Are students embracing it and what challenges
lie ahead?
“Teaching the Diploma is exciting – and
students are really enjoying it, which is great,” says
Ray Isaacs, Diploma in Information Technology tutor at
Gleed Girls Technology School, Lincolnshire.
So far, feedback from teachers, including Ray, and
students on the ground about the Diploma, is generally
very positive. The Diploma is a qualification that is not
only providing young people with an engaging and
valuable learning option; it is also offering teachers and
tutors the chance to teach in new and interesting ways.
Giving young people confidence in themselves and
their abilities is one of the main benefits of the Diploma,
says Ray, who teaches the Foundation, Higher and
Advanced Diploma in Information Technology.
“The Diploma takes them out of their comfort
zone and concentrates on developing their personal,
learning and thinking skills. The students set their own
targets and agenda and are encouraged to find solutions
through both teamwork and independent thought – key
skills for almost any profession,” explains Ray, adding:
“The Diploma gives students a proper chance to see
how what they learn in school relates to the outside
The qualification itself combines theoretical study
with practical work, both in school and college and
in the workplace, to give students the skills and
knowledge they need to progress into higher education
and employment. It’s been designed by schools,
colleges, HE and more than 5,000 employers, with this
in mind.
The Diploma is an important element in the reform
of 14-19 education – which also includes changes to
GCSEs and A Levels, the introduction of functional
skills into the secondary curriculum, introducing the
Foundation Learning Tier and the planned expansion
of Apprenticeships. It means bringing together existing
qualifications into clear routes to higher education
and skilled employment. A Levels, GCSEs and some
BTEC awards are already important components of the
Diploma; and Apprenticeships continue to incorporate
existing vocational qualifications such as NVQs.
The Diploma is now being taught in 146 different
centres in England across five subjects – Construction
and the Built Environment, Creative and Media,
Engineering, Information Technology and Society,
Health and Development. Over the next three academic
years, schools and colleges will introduce a further 12 in the future. The right Advanced Diploma can get you use of spreadsheets and number charts in a practical, rewarded. Teaching the Diploma is really a very
Diplomas in subjects from Public Services to Hospitality. into any university and it has support across industry at business sense helps students to understand the value exciting prospect – you’re not tied to the same subject
Young people can take the Diploma at one of three levels the highest levels. of GCSE or A Level maths in a way that ordinary study matter, there are far more practical projects and there’s
depending on what stage they are at in their education. The Diploma’s early successes provide a strong doesn’t always manage. an opportunity for regular contact with employers,
These are the Foundation Diploma, the Higher Diploma foundation on which to build the future of the qualification. “The point that’s often missed is that the Diploma which brings with it a chance to keep up to date with
and the Advanced Diploma, which range from the As with any reform, there will be challenges to overcome, is set up to be complementary to other qualifications what’s going on in the real world.”
equivalent of five GCSEs to 3.5 A Levels. but the passion and commitment of staff and students – one method of teaching is not at the exclusion of the
Many students are enjoying the independence a means that any issues are being faced head on. other. The idea is that different qualifications can work
Diploma course can offer and are starting to show “The Diploma is undoubtedly introducing a new in tandem to give young people more choice about how
Further information
more maturity in the way they approach their learning. approach to teaching, which some people find hard they learn and an opportunity to mix and match the For more information on the 14-19 reforms visit
They know that universities and employers want young to accept,” says Ray. “This mentality is changing, methods that work best for them as individuals,” the 14-19 website at or
people with a strong knowledge base, good functional however, especially when teachers see how the Ray adds: “Basically, teachers need only to talk to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority site at
skills and a positive attitude to work – and that Diploma can help students to generate more of an students in order to realise the benefits. And hopefully
ultimately it should create more opportunities for them interest in traditional subjects as well. For example, the they’ll see that it’s not only the students who are
Embracing the Diploma
Professor Michael Arthur, are already offering routes from Diploma to degree, of higher education, talking to vice-chancellors and
Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds with more set to follow. I am fully behind the new other senior figures, including members of the Russell
Diploma, and lecturing staff are grasping its appeal. Group. I’ve also canvassed the opinions of teaching
Imagine students coming into HE with the learning This is because the skills it will instil within students staff and I know that, although there is still much work
and communication skills they need for a university are exactly those required to tackle even the toughest needed on communicating the benefits, the advantages
course and making an effortless transition from of HE qualifications. We fully anticipate that Diploma inherent in this change to 14-19 education are being
secondary school or further education. The Diploma students will arrive with a high level of individual recognised. Even at this early stage, for example,
is a new way to make this vision a reality. learning skills and a good grasp of critical thinking. In many universities are realising that the Diploma
It won’t happen overnight, nor should it do addition, they will be experienced at problem solving in Engineering is perhaps an excellent route
because it will require changes within higher and teamwork, be comfortable using technology and be into an engineering degree. In the end it’s
education too. The admissions procedure will need excellent communicators. all about creating more opportunities for
to adapt, as will the attitudes and teaching methods The extended project element within the Diploma students – that’s what lies at the heart of these
of tutors. That’s why I am pleased the Diploma is is particularly important in preparing students for the reforms.
being introduced into schools gently and in waves. world of HE, but just as important is the concentration Some young people will want to use the
It means that when we take in our first Diploma on functional skills within this new qualification. There Diploma as a springboard to employment,
students, in September 2010, the numbers will be is always room for improvement where maths, English and because it offers work-related skills that
relatively small and we will have time to adjust to and ICT are concerned in any intake of degree students is very valid. Others of course will pursue
this new world. in any establishment. Advanced Diplomas with extended projects
After that, I’m certain that the transition from I think that within a three to five-year period the HE and that will prepare them perfectly for
Diploma to university will gradually evolve into sector will have fully embraced the Diploma as a valid the challenges which higher education will
as natural a process as that which takes place now route alongside A Levels, which will of course remain bring. It’s learning to suit an individual’s
between A Levels and HE. as the main other accepted journey. needs and that, ultimately, is what education
At the University of Leeds several of our schools I have championed the Diploma around the corridors is all about.
18 SecEd • April 2 2009
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