Consortia of schools and colleges offering the diplomas next year were announced this week after reviews by the diploma development partnerships and regional panels. Leaders of the panels described the Gateway process for selecting consortia as a "powerful tool" for promoting best practice.
It has encouraged better partnerships with employers, identified the professional development support that teachers need, introduced new methods of assessment and accreditation and focused minds on new approaches to teaching.
Karen Price, the chief executive of e-skills, the sector skills council for the IT industry, says the diplomas will help people aspire to better jobs and higher education. "The blend of academic and applied learning will prepare students for adaptable careers."
Graham Lane, the chairman of the engineering diploma development partnership, is equally emphatic in believing the diplomas will improve teaching and learning. "Research among disaffected learners showed they don't like sitting in a class, being talked at or being asked to read text books." The result has been "more about linking areas of the curriculum, imaginative use of languages and applying subjects".
But diplomas are not only for the disaffected. Mr Lane says: "There are almost as many consortia applying for the post-16 part of the diploma as there are for the post-14 part. They see it as mainstream and an alternative to three A-levels."