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Don't twist the diplomas

Teachers are enthusiastic, but some schools are surprised to be named as offering courses

Headteachers have criticised ministers for exaggerating take-up of the new 14-19 diplomas, qualifications they do not think should be rushed.

A TES survey of secondary teachers indicates many believe the qualifications will better engage pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This will be heartening for the Government, which announced last week that two-thirds of secondaries would teach the diplomas by 2009, and named them. However, a TES snap poll of 24 schools on the list found 13 did not plan to do so.

Jim Knight, schools minister, said the named secondaries would teach the diplomas, which he said were going from strength to strength.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families admitted this week that it knew some of the named schools would not be teaching the courses itself, but were part of local consortia of schools and colleges. "That does not mean that interested pupils in those schools will not have access to diplomas taught elsewhere in that consortium," a spokeswoman said.

However, some of the heads said they still did not think their pupils would study for diplomas.

Roger Hale, head of Caister Grammar in Lincolnshire, said schools felt compelled to join consortia for funding reasons, even when, like his school, there was no intention of offering the new qualification. "We are not going to force diplomas on our pupils out of some sense of political correctness when there is absolutely no interest from them or their parents," he said.

Another named school was Slough and Eton Business and Enterprise College. Howard Murray, assistant head, said: "Ministers seem to be suggesting that virtually all schools are offering diplomas, but that is clearly not the case. We are holding meetings with parents and students and, unless we and other schools in the area make dramatic changes in our options procedures, then no one will be doing any diplomas, even from September 2009."

Rachel Allard, head of Grey Coat Hospital, a girls' comprehensive in Westminster, London, said it would not be teaching diplomas and none of its pupils would take them. "Our students want A-levels," she said.

The TES survey of almost 870 teachers found 40 per cent thought diplomas would better engage pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds; 30 per cent said they would not; 30 per cent were unsure.

Laurie Johnston, deputy head of Charles Edward Brooke girls' school in Lambeth, south London, which will be teaching the creative and media diploma from 2009, said: "It looks like a good course for a wide range of students."

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