A diploma for science?

A new specialised diploma in science should be unveiled in schools within three years, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is recommending to the Government.

Science will be the 15th subject to get its own diploma, if ministers accept the proposal. The Government has described the diplomas as the most important education reform going on anywhere in the world.

The TES revealed three months ago how the QCA was considering the plan to offer a science diploma to 14 to 19-year-olds amid continuing concerns about falling numbers studying physics and, to a lesser extent, chemistry.

The move is designed to offer an alternative to A-levels for pupils interested in science-related careers.

Ken Boston, the authority's chief executive, wrote to Phil Hope, the skills minister, in December, suggesting that the diploma should "encompass the latest initiatives in science education".

He said that while a many applied science exams existed, none of them had attracted significant numbers.

"The development of a science diploma provides the opportunity to rationalise this provision in order to bring coherence to the offer for young people," he said.

"We are conscious that two previous science initiatives of this type (GNVQ and the vocational A-level and GCSEs) failed to attract sufficient young people. It is important that the development process draws upon these experiences."

If approved, the science diploma would be among the last to be launched, in 2010. Next year, specialised diplomas in engineering, construction, health and social care, creative and media and information technology will be the first to be studied.

The Department for Education and Skills would not say when a final decision would be taken on whether there would be a diploma in science.

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