Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 24 Apr 2008

Our daughter wants to take the new diploma in IT. We like the idea, but worry there could be problems.

Hillary's Advice

For those who donít know Ė which is probably almost everyone -- diplomas are new qualifications being phased in for 16-19-year-olds from this September, spanning a range of specialisms, from academic subjects like science or humanities, to vocational courses focussing on things such as engineering, or media.

Like you, I am well-disposed towards the general idea of them. I like the idea of learning for this age group being linked more closely to the world of work, and of vocational education being brought into the mainstream.

But you are right to worry, unless your daughterís school is in one of the handful of local authorities that has spent the last couple of years doing the groundwork on diplomas.
The problem is that they are complicated, and are going to need the goodwill and close cooperation of schools, colleges, employers and public institutions such as libraries and hospitals to work. Students are going to need properly-planned work placements, high-quality tutors and close supervision of their timetables to make sure everything is going well.

There is also the problem that new post-16 qualifications are proliferating, some specifically designed to drive a wedge between the academic sheep and the proletariat goats. No-one knows at present what the universities are going to make of them all, so your further concerns, about what your daughter will be able to do after she finishes her diploma, are also valid. Make an appointment with her tutor and talk all these things through. If you donít get satisfactory answers, dig deeper. It may be that her school isnít yet fully geared up for this new educational future.