Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 22 Nov 2007

Why bring in academic diplomas, as well as technical diplomas, for sixth formers when we already have a perfectly good A levels?

Hillary's Advice

The reason is simple. Itís because Ed Balls, the new Schools Secretary, is trying to bring in by the back door what previous ministers have been unable to bring in through the front, and thatís a single framework of qualifications, within which all students can pursue some appropriate path of study, according to their interests and aptitudes. Itís what Mike Tomlinson so sensibly proposed three years ago, and what Tony Blair rejected, fearing the outcry if he dared to chop A levels. Now the hope is that if new academic diplomas are introduced alongside vocational ones, the old A levels will conveniently wither on the vine.
And it would be great to think it could happen because, although A levels suit a minority of students, their continuing presence leaves the vast majority either struggling to stuff themselves into academic clothes which donít fit, or doing something that they know society thinks is inferior.
We, in this country, urgently need to start developing a proper respect for vocational and technological learning, as well as a recognition that in todayís complex society the old sheep-and-goats divide no longer applies Ė we all need some mixture of good technical and thinking skills under our belts. So it makes real sense to try and move towards this by dignifying all kinds of learning with equal respect.