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Tomlinson sketchy on links to colleges

A major government inquiry into the future of secondary education will sidestep the practical problems involved in improving collaboration between schools and colleges, The TES understands.

The Tomlinson report, the conclusion of an 18-month investigation into a new qualifications structure led by Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools, will be published on Monday.

Closer co-operation between schools, colleges and employers will be vital if the Tomlinson plans, which include a four-level diploma to replace GCSEs, A-levels and vocational exams, are to succeed.

But drafts of the final report, which will run to at least 150 pages, have just a couple of pages on issues such as differences in funding between schools and colleges, teacher and lecturer pay rates and different qualifications in the two sectors.

One of the key aims of the reforms is to improve vocational options for youngsters from the age of 14, often through diploma programmes offered by colleges or companies.

Many observers argue that it will make it harder to defend pay differentials between teachers and lecturers, and the fact that schools are funded through local authorities and colleges through the Learning and Skills Council.

Meanwhile, a survey released this week by the National Union of Teachers revealed that teachers back the thrust of the Tomlinson reforms, but are concerned about its impact on workload.

The NUT postal survey of 73 secondary teachers, found only 25 per cent disagreed with the proposed diploma.

Most teachers in the survey believed that the changes would help to recognise all students' achievements, including those of the least able.

But they were worried that their workload would increase and that there would be further upheaval in education.

John Bangs, NUT education secretary, said: "The basic principles behind Tomlinson are ones that could be acceptable to teachers. But the devil will be in how it is funded and how it is managed in schools. Unless that is worked out properly, teachers will not back it."

Next week's report will propose:

* A diploma at entry, foundation, intermediate and advanced level, to replace GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications by 2014.

* Much of GCSEs and A-levels to be incorporated into diploma courses.

* Students required to pass courses in functional English, maths and computer skills to gain the intermediate diploma.

* A big reduction in traditional exams, with external assessment mainly reserved for the advanced award.

* The intermediate diploma to be marked internally by teachers, based on pupils' routine school work.

* Pupils' work not to be assessed at all on some diploma courses to reduce the overall assessment "burden".

* Formal coursework to be scrapped in many subjects, and replaced by a single extended research project, which could be cross-curricular.

* Extra-curricular activities, such as art, sport or community work, to be recognised in the diploma.

* Before the diploma's introduction, advanced extension awards to be incorporated into A-levels with new A** and A* grades.

FE Focus 1

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