Rich mixture of practical and theoretical will suit all learners

4th April 2008 at 01:00

The retention of existing qualifications is a much needed safeguard until the 14-19 diplomas have proved themselves and become recognised by parents, employers and higher education.

However, we can see the point at which A-levels, Btec Nationals and other qualifications that serve a purpose for learners might be subsumed under the diploma umbrella. Rationalisation of qualifications will create coherence but it won't be the case that we will lose the benefits of well- respected existing vocational routes. Instead, we expect diplomas to eventually incorporate the best elements of those qualifications which are likely to be superseded.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has consistently supported curriculum reform and welcomes the clarity that the four progression routes now offer all learners. We have always maintained the diploma has the potential to underpin education at 14 to 19, particularly to meet the needs of the young people who are participating in education to the age of 18.

The AoC has long supported a credit based approach and welcomes the proposal to create units of learning for 14 to 19-year-olds. This will create the flexibility we know employers value and that allows HE to specify requirements for higher level study.

We welcome a coherent set of pathways from which learners can choose and feel that the time is now right for greater communication of the ways in which the routes can interlock, including the apprenticeship route. It is not quite clear yet how these four learning lines will "talk" to each other.

Although choice can create complexity, we feel that a rich mixture of practical and theoretical units is the secret to meet the needs of all our learners. Colleges want to lead their partnerships to ensure their existing expertise is used from the start to create a high quality, highly visible, successful qualification.

Maggie Scott, Director of learning and quality, Association of Colleges, London WC1.

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