14-19 qualification wins only 16% teacher backing

19th March 2010 at 00:00
And able pupils see Diplomas as irrelevant, heads are unimpressed and parents don't want their children to be 'guinea pigs', research reveals

Pupils are shunning the Government's Diploma and only 16 per cent of teachers have confidence in the qualification, research shows.

An Ipsos Mori study published today finds that most teachers believe the Diploma will have a lower status than the A-level, the qualification ministers hoped it could rival.

It reports that 37 per cent of teachers and 70 per cent of the public and parents know nothing or "not very much" about Diplomas.

The research comes as a separate survey suggests nearly a quarter of schools offering Diplomas will have no takers next year.

Another 72 per cent of schools expect only "a little" in terms of pupil uptake, according to the poll by the Examination Officers' Association (EOA).

Association members warned that heads were not impressed, able pupils saw Diplomas as irrelevant and that there was too much work for the less able.

Other comments suggested parents were wary and there was too much travel involved in rural areas.

"Parents do not want their children to be guinea pigs and it is far too complex," one exam officer said.

The Ipsos Mori research, commissioned by exams regulator Ofqual, shows teacher confidence in Diplomas is a long way behind A-levels and GCSEs, which enjoy the backing of 77 and 73 per cent of the profession respectively.

Teachers believed the status of the Diploma would be lowest in universities, with 79 per cent saying admissions officers would rate the new qualification behind the A-level. But the study found that only 56 per cent of the public agreed most A-level candidates got the grade they deserved, compared to 74 per cent for GCSE.

And the proportion of teachers citing no concerns with A-levels had fallen by 10 percentage points from the previous year, to 28 per cent.

The EOA survey included responses from members working in nearly 400 state secondaries and 62 independent schools. Of those, 356 said their schools would be offering the Diploma and were asked how much take-up there would be from pupils next year.

Just 19 answered "a lot", 255 said "a little", and 82, or 23 per cent, said "not at all".

Only around 11,000 pupils opted for the Diploma during its first year in 200809, well short of the Government target of 40,000.

Last November, the ministers said 94 per cent of all state schools and colleges were offering the Diploma. But this week's survey shows that does not necessarily translate into pupil numbers.

Earlier this month Ofqual, said the central sections of three of the Diplomas were too easy.

Last month Sir Mike Tomlinson, who inspired the Diploma, warned "academic" versions needed structural change, and exam boards have said it is being rushed.

The Department for Children Schools and Families said the Diploma was becoming "increasingly popular", with rising numbers of pupils and parents considering it as valid alongside other qualifications.

Funding of #163;2.9 million was helping pay for travel for Diploma pupils in rural areas.

'Blind faith' in grades, page 23.


Since the introduction of the school workforce agreement in 2003, the exam officer role has passed largely from teaching to support staff.

This year's annual Examination Officers' Association survey showed nearly a quarter felt their working conditions had worsened in the past 12 months.

Some are paid less than #163;7 an hour and more than 42 per cent are not being paid during school holidays.

Andrew Harland, association chief executive, said: "Exams office staff now need to see the greater recognition of their role being converted into improvements in working conditions, pay and appropriate support."

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