Diplomas are 'back door' route to qualifications, claims shadow minister

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Diplomas were described as qualifications for pupils who are "not good at GCSEs" by a shadow minister in the Conservatives' education team at the party's conference

Baroness Verma of Leicester, shadow minister for children, schools and families and universities and skills, told a fringe meeting on Tuesday that Diplomas were a "back door" qualification.

"Diplomas were brought in for children who were not so good at GCSEs," she said. "They cannot be seen to be the panacea for all of the ills that GCSEs and A-levels do not address. At the moment, they are this back-door route into getting a qualification."

She added: "We should not rush into things like this - they need to be properly tested so we know what the full impact will be."

But a former head at the meeting, who did not want to be named, said the peer had got it "totally wrong".

She said: "Baroness Verma clearly has a very vague notion of what a Diploma is. She seemed to be maintaining that it was a low-level qualification. She obviously hasn't been briefed adequately. She then tried to change her argument and say the programme had been rushed, but that's also not true."

The Diploma was meant to end the academic-vocational divide, with ministers hoping they would become the qualification "of choice".

Fourteen new work-led Diplomas were announced by the Government in 2005. Three academic Diplomas - in humanities and social sciences, languages and science - were later announced. They will be offered in 2011.

The Tories have shown little inclination to embrace Diplomas if the party gains office, publicly stating they need a rethink while privately suggesting they may be scrapped.

Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary, has already promised to remove vocational courses from league tables. He believes pupils are pushed into "soft subjects" by teachers to improve schools' ratings, skewing the data used in performance tables.

Speaking at the Labour conference last week, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said Mr Gove will simply exacerbate the two-tier vocational-academic system.

Plans in the making

  • Build 12 new technical colleges
  • Turn schools in special measures into academies
  • Give all schools opportunity to become academies
  • `Outstanding' schools to be pre-approved to become academies
  • Ofsted's school inspection reduced from 18 categories to four
  • `Outstanding' schools to be exempt from Ofsted inspection.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today