Swedish - 'Free school' system puts pay to equal education

16th October 2009 at 01:00

It is worrying when shadow ministers speak about important issues such as the Diplomas without showing that they understand much about them ("Diplomas are 'back door' route to qualifications, claims shadow minister", October 9). Baroness Verma is wrong in saying they were brought in for children who were not so good at GCSEs.

All Diploma pupils who choose to study for a Diploma also spend three days a week studying GCSEs including English, maths and science.

The engineering Diploma is a very challenging one and successful pupils will have to have a sound knowledge of maths. After all, engineers need to make sure aeroplanes that they help to design can fly safely. That is why we have developed maths for engineering, which has been accepted by almost all universities as suitable for students wishing to study for a degree in engineering.

Employers who helped to develop the content of the Diplomas want to see qualifications that are academic and involve applied learning to that academic knowledge. The Diplomas also involve young people learning essential employment skills such as working in a team and being able to make decisions under pressure.

They are for all pupils and not just aimed at the lower achievers. They have only started last year in a small number of areas so lessons can be learnt, but by 2012 all pupils will have the legal right to choose to do any of the 17 Diploma lines wherever they live.

This year has seen remarkable progress with employers, schools, colleges and higher education working together to deliver in a very exciting and imaginative way the first five Diplomas to more than 12,000 pupils who, in almost all cases, have gone on to begin with enthusiasm their second year of the course. At the same time 10 lines are now offered to about 30,000 pupils nationwide.

The future of this country relies on having a skilled workforce, especially as most unskilled jobs will disappear in the next few years and the UK has to make sure pupils leave school able to cope. That is why the Diplomas have been developed. They widen young people's choices from just a narrow academic one.

Councillor Graham Lane, Chair of the engineering diploma development partnership and former chair of the LGA education committee, London.

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