Government's response to the Fifth Report from
the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2006-07
The Committee's conclusions and recommendations are
in bold text. The Government's response is in plain text.
Recommendation 1 and 2 (grouped)
1. The disappointment many expressed after
the Government decided not to fully implement Tomlinson's proposalswhich
had strong supporthas not yet dissipated. Like others at
the time, we felt that the creation of the unified, overarching
Diploma award proposed by Tomlinson held the promise of a less
hierarchical, less complex, and ultimately more coherent qualification
system for young people. We remain concerned that the Government's
decision to introduce 14 new discrete Diplomas, each at three
different levels, has the potential to compound existing problems
of over-complexity and stratification of qualifications, and may
just cement existing hierarchies.
2. One of Tomlinson's achievements was establishing
a large and pressing consensus for change. This still exists.
Now the Government has embarked on its chosen route, most appear
to be taking the pragmatic and positive stance that what is important
is ensuring the Diplomas are of a high quality, and are a complete
success. We understand and welcome that approach, but we believe
that the changes to the 14-19 curriculum would have been better
structured and more coherent had Tomlinson's proposals been adopted.
We fully acknowledge Sir Mike's achievements, and
have built on his major recommendations, such as need for a strong
core to all young people's learning, increasing stretch and challenge
at all levels and a radical transformation of the vocational pathways
available to young people. Whilst Sir Mike Tomlinson himself would
acknowledge his disappointment that we did not implement in full
his proposals, he recognises that we are implementing the majority
and have gone further in some respects e.g. reform of KS3.
We believe that far from compounding over-complexity,
Diplomas will provide a coherent and clear set of choices for
young people alongside the A Level and apprenticeship routes.
3. There is an enduring risk that a programme
as complicated as Diplomas could face problems and it would have
been disingenuous for the Minister to pretend that this was not
the case. However, having made the decision to pursue the line
it has taken, the very least that can be expected is for the Government
to invest its full energy into making the reforms work. It is
now imperative that ministers deliver strong leadership, by displaying
the courage to intervene swiftly to address identified problems
and showing public commitment to producing programmes of the highest
The Government is fully committed to the Diplomas
initiative. And the Government is not alonea great many
people across the spectrum, from employers to teachers, support
the Diplomas and want to make them work. Involving so many people
in different ways makes for a major, complex and radical reform.
We were, and are, under no illusions. Changing the face of 14-19
learning in this way was never going to be easy, but despite the
scale, we are on track to deliver.
We should also reflect on how far we've come in such
a short time. Qualification development is not easy. Despite tight
timescales, all qualifications have been delivered on time. This
is a testament to the dedication and expertise of all partners
who have worked effectively together to endorse, submit and accredit
them so that we will soon have real qualifications that people
will be able to see and a real programme of development to support
Ministers keep a constant check on progress, taking
account of all aspects of the work, so that I can be confident
that it is coming together in the right way. We have systems,
operating across our partners, to constantly review our state
of readiness and assess the level of risk associated with first
teaching in 2008.
The size of the task shouldn't deflect us from the
goala uniquely coherent qualification, designed by employerswhich
will improve the life chances of many learners.
4. Our view is that the Government's decision
to consider A levels in isolation in its 2008 review is a missed
opportunity. More would be gained from considering A levels in
their wider context, and in particular, in the light of experience
of the Diplomas, which will have just started in September 2008.
We would urge the Government to consider rescheduling the review
and changing its terms of reference so that it can consider A
levels in their wider context and after more known about how Diplomas
are working in practice.
We are aware of the issues in relation to the proposed
A level review and will take account of the views reflected in
the Select Committee's report as we take the review forward.
5. It is far from clear that those in charge
of developing the different Diplomas share a common understanding
of the kinds of learning they will demand and the purposes they
will serve. We welcome the introduction of more practical learning
into the curriculum but there is a risk that the pressure over
time will be to introduce more and more desk-based, theoretical
material into practical, vocational curricula in pursuit of parity
with academic qualifications. It is important that this is guarded
against in the case of the Diplomas, and we will be looking for
evidence that the new programmes contain sufficient practical
content to motivate and appeal to learners who may be ill-served
by academic courses.
We are confident that those in charge of developing
the Diploma share a common vision of Diplomas. Diplomas will be
a unique blend of theoretical and practical learning that gives
young people the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge
which are truly relevant and really valued by employers, and which
will help them continue in learning to the highest level they
The mandatory principal learning component of the
Diploma states that at each level, a minimum of 50% must be concerned
with the application of skills and knowledge through tasks, problems
and situations that are related to work in that sector. Assessment
approaches must reflect the applied.
6. The DfES must ensure there is a real, shared
understanding of the kinds of learning and teaching that Diplomas
will involve among those responsible for their design, development
and delivery. Consensus on this should have been established at
the outset and the failure to do this it is a matter of deep concern
to us. Secondly, and with some urgency, the Department must decide
on a coherent and easily communicable definition of Diplomas.
Communications must not further complicate what is already a complicated
award, and must encapsulate what is different and distinctive
about Diplomas, compared to existing routes.
The Government recognises the importance of developing
a clear shared understanding of what is distinct and different
about the applied learning route that Diplomas offer. We have
been working closely with a range of partners in developing the
Diplomas to make sure that Diplomas will offer a genuine and attractive
alternative to traditional learning routes for 14-19 year olds.
There has been a lot of good work done already to
inform and raise awareness amongst all audiences, using various
innovative methods. These include appearances on Teachers TV which
have been very well received, and excellent work by the DDPs,
such as the DVD produced for the Construction and Built Environment
Diploma. We are sending monthly newsletters to partner organisations,
delivery consortia and HE institutions. We also provide updates
on our website. We have held nationwide and regional conferences
to get our message across, and we have core messages agreed by
all partners and used in communications and presentations.
Inevitably the language of qualification development
has been technical, but now that we are a stage where it
is appropriate to communicate more widely about Diplomas, particularly to
young people and their parents, we will bring the Diploma to life
through illustrative case studies and clear examples of progression
routes. We have already produced a short leaflet on Diplomas that
has had widespread coverage, and materials for schools and colleges
to use in their own marketing. At national level we will
reinforce local activity with national and regional marketing.
We will be monitoring awareness and
understanding of Diplomas through a tracking survey every six
7. It is absolutely essential that the first
Diploma cohort is very limited in size, and that thereafter expansion
takes place at a slow and controlled rate, with sufficient time
for development and assessment. Too often in the past, initiatives
have been rolled out too quickly, with serious negative effects
on quality. The Government says it will place quality above all
other considerations, and intends to take a measured approach:
we very much welcome this, and will look for evidence that this
is happening in practice.
A key element of the Diplomas is the planned management
of the roll-out in a gradual way, ahead of full delivery in 2013.
The Department is committed to securing the highest
quality consortia to deliver the Diploma from 2008.
In the first phase, announced on 28 March, there
will be 145 consortia across 97 Local Authorities, delivering
250 diploma lines from September 2008. The number of forecast
learners is 38,000. Ten consortia will be delivering all five
diploma lines from 2008. This represents less than 25% of the
bids submitted. A further 112 consortia were recommended for deferred
approval to deliver in 2009. The remainder, representing around
half the bids, would need to reapply. The applications were subject
to a thorough assessment to ensure that only the highest quality
were successful. The Department is providing extensive support
and training to consortia to ensure that they deliver the highest
quality from day one.
We will also be evaluating the first year of the
Gateway process in designing arrangements for future years. At
present we envisage further Gateway exercises, although the details
will be dependent on the results of the evaluation and the outcome
of the Comprehensive Spending Review. We are looking at options
for staging the rollout arrangements up to 2013.
8. The Diploma development process has clearly
been frustrating for many of those involved, and it is commendable
that progress has been made in spite of this. The new Diploma
development partnership approachwith Sector Skills Councils
and employers in the leadhas been experimental, and also
highly complex, on account of the number of players involved.
At the same time, we are concerned that there appears to have
been too little direct involvement in or feedback from small and
medium-sized employers who have an important part to play in setting
a climate of business acceptance of the new Diplomas. We recommend
focused attention is given to involving them more prior to the
launch of the pilots.
The Government recognises the importance of involving
SMEs as we move forward with Diplomas. Involving and engaging
SMEs is key to both business acceptance of the Diplomas and delivery
of work-related learning elements within Diplomas.
SMEs have been engaged through the DDPs, have responded
to consultation questionnaires and attended events, and are represented individually
or through various professional associations. Phase 1 and
2 are in the process of developing and delivering employer engagement
strategies and SMEs are a key target group.
9. The question remains as to whether more
use could and should have been made of existing 'tried and tested'
qualifications such as BTECs at the outset. What appears to have
happened is that a 'blank slate' approach has been adopted, with
the promise that convergence between the Diplomas and other awards
would occur at a later stage. While we appreciate that the aim
was to create something new and radical, this nevertheless seems
wasteful to us and makes it likely that old lessons will have
to be learned again. We urge DfES and the awarding bodies to develop
urgently a strategy to make clear how existing qualifications
can fold into and relate to the new Diplomas, and to spell out
the equivalence and transfer possibilities of existing qualifications.
We did not start out by requiring or expecting that
all Diplomas would be designed from scratch as wholly new programmes,
rather than utilising existing qualifications. Indeed, it was
our expectation that DDPs in at least some sectors would want
to make considerable use of units and content from existing qualifications.
The first five DDPs reached the conclusion that starting from
scratch was the right thing to do in order to make the most of
the opportunity, and we warmly welcome the innovative and engaging
content that has emerged as a result on the Principal Learning
component of the Diploma.
We recognise that many employers, providers and young
people value some existing vocational qualifications. While it
is essential to retain the purpose of Diplomas as education programmes,
we do not want to lose the characteristics of those vocational
qualifications which make them motivating for young people and
valued by employers. So we are currently working with the QCA
to map the current qualification offer against Diplomas to consider
how we may retain those positive features and elements of vocational
qualifications within the Diploma structure.
10. It is a matter of concern that awarding
bodies have been given such little time to turn the specifications
from the first five Diploma Development Partnerships into workable
qualifications which are tied to coherent learning programmes.
As with teachers and lecturers, awarding bodies should have been
more consistently involved in development work from an early stage;
had they been, it is possible that some of the problems that later
arosefor example, the unexpected reworking of Diploma content
which was undertaken in order to bring about consistency across
Diploma lines-could perhaps have been avoided.
We have always listened carefully to what the awarding
bodies, alongside other partners, have to say. In the development
process we have brought them into the programme structures, addressing
many of their concerns, and we will continue to engage in discussion
with them, to maintain their commitment and maximise our chances
of getting the reforms right.
11. As it stands, very complicated and detailed
work has, in the case of the first five Diploma lines, been uncomfortably
compressed. We very much hope that the learning programmes and
qualifications which emerge will be of a high-enough quality to
be accepted by the groups that matter: students, employers, HE
and, of course, those who will deliver themteachers and
lecturers. Understandably given that awarding bodies began qualification
development so late in the day, awarding arrangements and longer-term
quality assurance procedures are not yet well developed.
QCA has played a key role in making sure the essential
high quality of learning programmes and qualifications is delivered
for the first five Diploma lines by instigating a rigorous quality
process with awarding bodies.
This has involved QCA in early and on-going dialogue
with awarding bodies to provide support and guidance during the
qualification development process. To make sure this guidance
was robust; subject sector experts were engaged via the Association
of Colleges. This dialogue has been further supported by a review
panel for each line of learning which included individuals experienced
in the delivery of qualifications, QCA and the Diploma Development
Partnerships. QCA have also taken views from the HE community
to make sure that the Diploma will enable progression to an HE
programme of study.
12. It also appears that although full pilots
for certain elements of the Diplomassuch as the functional
skills unitswill have begun in September 2007, the full
evaluation of the pilots will not be complete before first teaching
begins in September 2008. This is a matter of concern given previous
commitments the Government has made to this Committee about ensuring
qualifications are properly piloted and evaluated before implementation.
We would urge that when the evaluation of the pilots is complete,
urgent consideration be given as to whether the current split
of the proposed 14 Diplomas into three sub-sets of qualification
level, making 42 in all, is likely to prove unduly complex and
jeopardise acceptance by employers, universities and others.
Each of the Diplomas will be evaluated over three
academic years following their introduction, that is, from 2008-11,
2009-12 and 2010-13. Schools and colleges will need to decide
at what point they will be ready to offer Diplomas. Those institutions
wishing to offer one or several of the Diplomas in the pilot phase
will need to pass through a gateway process, which will assess
their readiness to do so and help them plan for the full introduction
of Diplomas across their area
The Department has prepared a comprehensive evaluation
framework to encompass the design, implementation and delivery
of the Diploma. The evaluation will be carried out by independent
researchers and will inform the roll out of Diplomas in readiness
for the introduction of the national entitlement in 2013. The
Department's 14-19 implementation plan set out the commitment
to a three year programme of evaluation for each implementation
phase of the Diplomas to allow analysis across each Diploma line
The evaluation will consider the policy impact of
Diplomas: the extent to which the implementation of Diplomas succeeds
in achieving progress towards key targets of participation and
attainment as well as providing an appropriate curriculum to meet
the needs of young people and contribute to improving their ground
in English, maths, ICT and skills for employment while also supporting
progression to higher education. The other areas for evaluation
include: considering the effectiveness of the Diploma design as
a new type of qualification that will provides the skills and
knowledge to meet the needs of young people, industry and higher
education; assessing the implementation processes and understanding
the factors that contribute to the outcomes associated with Diplomas;
and the value that key stakeholders, including employers, higher
education and young people and their parents come to place on
Although the evaluation is required to capture the
impact of Diplomas from development to national entitlement, it
will be phased so that regular reporting will inform both the
development and implementation of subsequent phases and full roll
Functional skills will be piloted from 2007-09, but
these qualifications have been trialled and evaluated and are
13. We are concerned that in relation to some
aspects of Diplomasfor example, on the issue of gradingthere
does not yet appear to be consensus between partners on the approach
which should be taken, or even what still remains to be done.
We believe it is important that the higher education sector should
be more closely involved in this process, so that the acceptance
of diplomas as an alternative pathway for some into HE is not
All partners are agreed that learner achievement
in the Diploma will be graded. Once all the requirements have
been meti.e. all components have been achieveda
final grade will be calculated from the evidence of the principal
learning and the project. In some cases there may be appropriate
prior achievement of components.
QCA published a document in March, Assessing and
grading of the Diploma, which set out the assessment principles
for all levels of the Diploma.
HEIs are an integral part of the development of Diplomas.
Each Diploma Development Partnership has had representatives from
HE working with them as they have developed the content of the
Diplomas and to ensure that the qualifications are designed with
progression from Level 3 into higher education.
The HE Engagement Board is sponsoring a number of
projects that will examine in some detail the progression from
Diplomas to HE programmes. For example, the 1994 Group has a 12
month project to map Diplomas against HE curricula to identify
gaps and changed skill sets, and to inform HE curriculum change.
The information on the full Diploma qualification will be available
in September 2007. HEIs will then be in a position to publish
their indicative admissions policy in principle with regard to
Diploma applicants for 2010 entry, and UCAS will commence the
process of determining the tariff points for the Diplomas, the
result of which will be known in early 2008.
14. It is unfortunate that, given the obvious
scale and complexity of the Diploma programme, coherent end-to-end
management, governance and reporting arrangements were not established
within the DfES from the outset. We believe that there was a failure
to appreciate the sheer scale and complexity of the challenge
in hand. Our understanding is that nowfive months from
the point where the awards should be ready and workforce development
is due to begina permanent project manager for the Diplomas
has finally been appointed, who will have oversight of all management
aspects. We also recognise that new arrangements have been put
in place at the senior strategic and governance level, whereby
Chief Executives of all the relevant agenciesincluding
awarding bodiesmeet regularly. It is crucial too that regular
ministerial input and oversight of the new management arrangements
should remain at the strongest and highest level possible, to
ensure that the priority and delivery of diplomas within the Department's
overall workload does not slip.
We did not underestimate the scale of the challenge
involved in delivering a programme of this nature successfully.
This was a new and unprecedented programme of work when it was
started. The initial set up was logical and sensible. As with
any new programme, we kept the arrangements under review.
There has always been a senior civil servant in charge
of Diploma development. Management has always been part of a coherent
end-to-end 14-19 programme. We have adapted and will continue
to adapt our governance arrangements in the light of lessons learned.
We have always had robust plans and governance arrangements for
the programmeand for Diplomas in particularand
we keep them continually under review. We adapt our approach where
we identify gaps, and to ensure it is fit for purpose as
we move through the phases of the programme.
We are confident that we have management structures
in place which deliver good quality qualifications and an effective
delivery infrastructure for the introduction of the Diplomas in
2008. We have a senior Project Manager with the authority to set
work requirements across any part of the delivery chain, oversight
by my officials at the highest level, and, most critically, genuine
commitment from all partners to make this reform work.
15. Given all the concerns that have been
expressed to us about whether the Diplomas are ready to be introduced,
and the uncertainty about what the Diplomas are designed to achievewhether
they are vocational or practical or academicthe initial
phase is vitally important. The Secretary of State said in evidence
that 2008 is the "pilot stream." The Government needs
to ensure that it is genuinely a pilot, and if problems are not
resolved, or if further problems emerge, then the wider roll out
should be delayed or reviewed in order to prevent the failure
of the Diplomas.
Each of the Diplomas will be evaluated over three
academic years following their introduction, that is, from 2008-11,
2009-12 and 2010-13. Schools and colleges will need to decide
whether they want to offer any Diplomas during roll out phase
and at what point they will be ready to do so. Those institutions
wishing to offer one or several of the Diplomas will need to pass
through a gateway process, which will assess their readiness to
do so and help them plan for the full introduction of Diplomas
across their area.
16. We have been impressed by the dedication
and commitment shown by those who are already well advanced with
collaborative work. It will be extremely important that the lessons
of areas already working in this way are fully absorbed and effectively
disseminated if Diplomas are to be successful. What is more, it
is preferable that only those areas with significant experience
of joint working to date are involved in the early stages of implementation.
It is good that the Committee has recognised the
importance of collaboration so young people can be offered a good
range of high-quality programmes. We have made available a good
deal of good practice on partnership and collaborative working.
The Committee referred to the popular programme of Learning Visits
where those who are less well advanced can learn from those that
are. We are extending this programme with those who have the most
to do to be ready being prioritised for support.
The Gateway process has proved an effective way of
ensuring that those institutions that are most experienced at
working together to deliver quality applied education will go
first. We have set up a Twinning Project between 2008 consortia
and the Department which will help to further facilitate learning
across the system. Lessons learned in the first years will be
shared across all areas.
17. While good practice exists, it is clear
that many local areas are some way away from the kinds of working
that will be required to successfully deliver Diplomasespecially,
those which have not been involved in 14-19 Pathfinders. The National
Audit Office is currently undertaking a review to establish the
scale of preparedness and the barriers to implementation in local
areas. This is extremely welcome and we would encourage the LSC
and the DfES to take full heed of the findings in planning for
Like the Committee, we welcome the work that NAO
are doing in this area. We have had initial conversations with
NAO about their work, and have provided background information
as requested. We will continue to support their review over the
coming months and we look forward to receiving their report later
in the year.
18. It is vital that as many providers as
possible in an area are actively and meaningfully involved in
local 14-19 partnerships. The statutory requirement in the Education
Act 2006 for schools to collaborate is very welcome for that reason.
However, the effect of some other policy levers is contradictory.
In particular, it is hard to see how individual institutional
performance tables will offer a meaningful measure in a collaborative
system, or immediately reward those that adopt a collegiate approach.
If collaborative approaches to 14-19 provision are to become the
norm, the Government needs to look again at the mechanisms for
recognising achievements in collaborative provision. Existing
tensions need to be resolved, or they risk seriously undermining
the welcome messages in recent rhetoric about the importance of
collaboration and the adoption of shared responsibility.
The greatest incentive to collaborate is the commitment
to providing a clear choice of appropriate and high quality learning
routes for young people. As the Committee has highlighted, lots
of good collaboration exists already under the current arrangements.
This is underpinned by the legislative entitlement, which places
a duty on schools to provide access to the Diplomas and provides
a further driver and guarantee for young people.
14-19 Partnerships will be made up of individual,
autonomous institutions working together. Collaboration between
such institutions will not be impeded by being held accountable
for learner performance in the Achievement and Attainment Tables.
We believe that Diplomas will raise standards by
providing a coherent learning programme that will engage a wide
range of learners. Therefore schools and colleges will be incentivised
to engage in collaborative arrangements to ensure their learners
follow the most appropriate course; which will increase learner
choice meaning better outcomes.
Results achieved by pupils will still be reported
against the 'home' institution. In retaining individual institutional
accountability, the home institution will be encouraged to ensure
other provision within its consortium is of a high quality and
raises standards. We are also looking at methods to ensure consortia
based performance is of a high quality and consortia take collective
responsibility for learner outcomes.
We are also developing the post-16 progression measure
as a way of recognising schools for supporting their students
to make good choices of post-16 courses and helping to make sure
the whole cohort receives full and impartial information and guidance
about their post compulsory options. This will encourage partnerships
to think collectively about all the young people in their area,
and work together to ensure they have access to the right provision
and the support to make a good decision.
19 and 20 grouped
19. We are pleased that the Government is
actively consulting on aspects of the funding arrangements for
Diplomas, and has explicitly recognised that the current systems
are unlikely to be sufficiently robust to support successful Diploma
delivery. We are also pleased that the proposals to use a common
funding model for 16-18 learners whether in schools or in colleges
are being taken forward. We look forward to the outcomes of these
20. Given the emphasis being placed on 14-19
as a distinct phase, and the centrality of funding in driving
provision, we were initially disappointed that the option of creating
a single 14-19 funding system appeared not to be being considered
further. The creation of a single funding system for 14-19 learners
may indeed present significant legal and practical challenges,
as the Government asserts, but the potential rewards of a single
system could also be very significant indeed. We therefore welcome
the Secretary of State's later clarification that a single 14-19
funding system may still be considered in the medium-term, after
the next Comprehensive Spending Review period and recommend that
they make an explicit commitment to analysing the likely benefits
and costs of such an approach.
We welcome the positive response from the Committee
to our consultation on changes to pre and post 16 funding systems
to support the delivery of Diplomas.
The fundamental challenge is to ensure that
funding systems create the environment for the collaboration
needed at area level and between schools and partner providers
to deliver the Diploma entitlement to a consistent standard of
quality, and making optimum use of the learning resources within
We will be carefully evaluating the impact
of the new funding arrangements for 08-09 to ensure
that they are facilitating collaboration as intended.
Any longer term changes to 14-19 funding
arrangements will be considered in the context of the
transition of funding for 16-18's in School Sixth forms
and colleges to LAs announced as part of the Machinery of Government
changes. This will be subject to consultation, ensuring
there will be no disruption to schools and colleges and the introduction
of Diplomas, and the passage of the necessary legislation.
21. We remain unconvinced by the Government's
argument that the 'choice' and self determination agenda gels
completely with the more co-ordinated and planning-led approach
necessitated by Diplomas.
Encouraging quality and encouraging greater diversity
of provision is fully compatible with the development of effective
local partnerships and planning for the needs of an area. Since
institutions cannot individually offer all the opportunities that
14-19 year olds need, there is a strong incentive for institutions
to pool their strengths for the good of all young people in the
Our "presumption" policies allow high performing
institutions to expand, adding to the high quality resources available
to partnerships. It is therefore important that discussions about
new provision are carried out within the local planning framework.
As part of our guidance to institutions qualifying for the sixth
form and FE presumptions, we encourage them to enter into early
discussions with the local authority, LSC and local partners to
ensure that new provision fits with the local pattern of
22. The DfES says it will be up to local authorities
to ensure a joined-up approach, and that they have the strategic
responsibility for ensuring coherence. Some have leapt at the
challenge, and are effectively supporting joint working in their
area. However, our evidence suggests that not all local authorities
currently see themselves as having this role. The DfES needs to
send a clear message that local authorities have the responsibility
to co-ordinate local provision, and crucially, ensure they have
the means to do so. We have said above that incentives in the
system which promote competition must be revisited: it should
not be up to local authorities, or a few particularly enthusiastic
institutions, for that matter, to 'square the circle'. The DfES
also needs to monitor the effectiveness of LSCs in supporting
partnerships, given its recent restructuring.
Local authorities, LSC, Schools, colleges and training
providers will all be accountable for their contributions to delivery
but Local Authorities play the role of strategic leader. Their
role is critical as the integrators of services for children up
to the age of 19. We have set out in guidance the role we expect
local authorities to takeas strategic leaders within their
areasand reinforced this through local government performance
Through the 14-19 Progress Checks every LA is undertaking
a self assessment which helps them to think through what they
need to do to prepare. Areas that have the furthest to go to get
ready for the 14-19 reforms are being prioritised for supportparticularly
The LSC's organisational restructuring is designed
to provide local LSC teams at partnership level who will work
closely with Local Authorities and 14-19 partnerships to help
their development and success. The LSC will continue to provide
support to Consortia as they prepare fro 2008 delivery. Following
Machinery of Government changes announced on 29 June and subject
to consultation, funding for school sixth forms, sixth form colleges
and the contribution of FE colleges to the 14-19 phase will transfer
to local authorities' ring fenced education budgets. We will be
taking this forward in consultation with the LSC and ensuring
no disruption to Consortia.
23. The multi-site, multi-institutional nature
of Diploma delivery inevitably raises significant management challenges
around timetabling, transportation, and the monitoring of a mobile
student population. These challenges should not be under-estimatedparticularly
in rural areas where institutions may be located considerable
distances apart and travel between multiple institutions may be
prohibitively costly, or impractical. However, some areasand
particularly those which have been involved in the Increased Flexibility
and 14-19 Pathfinder programmesnow have significant experience
of dealing with these challenges in constructive ways. It is vital
that their experience is built on, and we see some positive signs
that the DfES is doing thisfor example, by facilitating
'learning visits' and the publication of best practice materials.
We also hope the National Audit Office's report will suggest ways
in which best practice from more advanced areas can be more effectively
In general Diplomas will be delivered collaboratively
by schools, colleges, and work-based learning providers in consortia.
This collective approach inevitably calls for considered and innovative
management across any consortium in order to ensure that young
people can access Diplomas, taking into account the best approach
for the local circumstances. What the best approach might be will,
of course, vary from place to place. There are obvious differences
between the way in which an urban area with a small geographical
spread of institutions and a rural area with highly dispersed
institutions and population might approach the transportation
of young peoplefor example through different decisions
about timetabling, e-learning, or peripatetic teaching staff.
We know that many local authorities are now developing
their plans and strategies for the roll out of Diplomas in 2008
and beyond. Manyincluding those from the Pathfinder programmehave
mature, developed partnerships; others are developing quickly
in response to the need to develop better routes for young people.
As the Committee acknowledges, the recognition of this distinction
has led us to set up the very successful Learning Visits. We also
know that other areas are sharing practice informally without
going on a formal Learning Visit. The Department will continue
to facilitate the sharing of good practice in this area, so that
local areas can develop bespoke solutions that respond to the
particular circumstances of each consortium.
24. The Diploma Gateways, in principle at
least, look likely to play an essential role in the success of
the reform programme if they set consistently high standards which
are independently applied, and they should also provide a safeguard
against an overly hasty roll-out. We welcome the Minister's emphasis
that the Diploma Gateway process needs to be rigorous, and set
high quality thresholds. At the time of writing, the results of
the application process have only just been announced. It is therefore
still too early to speculate on the effectiveness of the Gateways
as arbiters of quality, but this is an area over which we intend
to keep a watching brief.
An evaluation of the first Diploma Gateway has taken
place, and the lessons learned are being fed into the preparations
for the next Gateway. The Department is keen to ensure that quality
is maintained and has set up support and monitoring arrangements
to ensure that consortia continue their preparations to deliver
Diplomas to the highest standard from September 2008. Where preparations
are falling behind, or the necessary quality is not guaranteed,
the Department will agree remedial action with a consortium.
25. After the announcement of decisions on
the first round of applications to the Gateway, the DfES committed
to giving detailed feedback to particular areas on the reasons
for their success or failure. We understand that this has now
taken place. This is welcome, but more publicly available information
on the criteria and standards which Diploma Gateways are applying
would be welcome, both to help potential applicants, and also
to provide reassurance that gateways are setting consistent, and
consistently high, benchmarks.
The Department has published the features of successful
self-assessments, and this document was also given to consortia
as part of their feedback. It gives examples under each of the
five criteria (collaboration; facilities; workforce; information,
advice and guidance; and employer engagement) from successful
applications. It is also available on the Department's website.
Evaluation of the first gateway has also highlighted a general
wish for more transparency in the assessment process along with
more comprehensive guidance. The Department is considering how
best to do this for Gateway 2.
It should be said that the feedback from the first
Gateway process has been almost universally positive, with a very
low number of appeals. The process and communications of outcomes
have all worked well, and we have on the whole retained the engagement
of those who did not get through the Gateway as well as those
26. The DfES needs to make clear what plans
are underway to develop the capacity of those responsible for
guiding young people through the many different options which
will be available to them from the age of 14. It also needs to
demonstrate that any programme of improvements to information,
advice and guidance services planned as part of the wider 14-19
reforms is explicitly tied to the introduction of the Diplomas.
A wide range of activities are in hand and planned
to help providers of information, advice and guidance to young
people to advise on the implications of the 14-19 reform programme.
Messages about the reform programme are being communicated
to information, advice and guidance providers (IAG) through various
relevant specialist websites and publications.
These messages are being reinforced by continuing
professional development support aimed at developing the skills
and competences of the IAG workforce in schools and elsewhere.
A web-based CPD resource "Improving Choices for Young PeopleDeveloping
the IAG Workforce", was published on the DfES-funded CEGNET
website in June, with links through to the Department's 14-19
website. We are also working through the Specialist Schools and
Academies Trust (SSAT) to recruit 9 regional 'Lead Practitioners'
in IAG, who will provide a regional focus for generating and sharing
good practice in IAG delivery in schools in the context of the
introduction of Diplomas.
These activities will be underpinned by quality standards
for young people's IAG which will be published in July following
extensive consultation with external stakeholders. These will
be used by local authorities and organisations providing IAG services
to check that the expected standards are being achieved and to
review the quality of services. We will expect 14-19 consortia
submitting diploma gateway proposals to include evidence of how
they will provide IAG that meets these standards.
27. The DfES says the essential package of
workforce development will initially consist of three days' face-to-face
training. This seems to usand to many of our witnesses
inadequate. It is true that the workforce is not a blank slate,
insofar as there are skilled and experienced staff in both schools
and colleges with relevant teaching expertise However, we remain
to be convinced that the workforce development requirements for
the Diplomas have been effectively costed and that sufficient
resources have been allocated on this basis. We ask the Government
to supply us with information which proves this sort of underpinning
analysis has been undertaken or is in progress.
The 3 days training form the basis of the face-to-face
element of a wider continuing professional development package.
The three days will be spread through the course of the 2007-08
academic year and over this time, Diploma teachers and lecturers
will be able to access a large range of supporting materials provided
by the QIA and Specialist Schools and Academies Trust according
to their development needs.
SSAT are also setting up networks of coaching and
support that may be accessed at any time.
We now have information from the first Gateway consortia
which gives us actual figures on how many practitioners need to
be trained. We and partner agencies are analysing this data in
order to ensure appropriate coverage of the training.
We are also using the results from the first Gateway
to analyse teacher supply and the demand for continuing professional
development and initial teacher training. We are working closely
with the TDA and LLUK to ensure an adequate supply of new members
of the workforce to reflect the demand for teachers and lecturers
to teach Diplomas.
28. The workforce development needs relating
to Diplomas go beyond obvious technical knowledge-base and pedagogy,
and are especially acute around collaborative, cross institutional
working. We see little immediate sign of this being reflected
in current workforce development strategies or plans, and would
like to see this rectified.
For the most part, collaborative working across partnerships
will be something for leaders in a consortium to continue to lead
locally, rather than for the DfES or its partners to provide formal
training to those teaching Diplomas, centrally.
The National College for Leadership and the Centre
for Excellence in Leadership are developing a programme to support
leaders in collaborative cross-institutional working.
a) A collaborative leadership learning module.
b) Coaching adaptable to a consortium's needs.
c) Action learning sets.
d) Organisational development and change management
consultancy tailored to the specific needs of an individual consortium.
29 and 30 grouped
29. It is unfortunate that the delivery of
formalised workforce development activities in support of the
Diplomas cannot be started in the natural window which will be
present at the end of the summer 2007 term. It is now imperative
that the plans for workforce development delivery arrangements
are clearly communicated, and information about when training
will be available is communicated to those who will be expected
to undertake it.
30. Initially, the DfES implied that workforce
development support would be focused on successful gateway applicant
areas. Subsequently, they have confirmed that support will be
extended to those due to begin offering Diplomas in September
2009. This is very welcome. However, it is less certain what support
will be extended to those areas with the furthest to traveland
the risk is that they could fall even further behind in relative
terms. The DfES and partners need to produce, with some urgency,
forward plans for specific, costed, and time-tabled actions to
address the staff development needs in the least advanced areas
if the entitlement in 2013 is to be deliverable.
Consortia have a year's lead-in to build capacity
and train the workforce for Diploma delivery in September 2008.
We also do not want to overburden schools and colleges that are
taking part in the functional skills pilot. Workforce development
for that is taking place in the summer term 2007.
However, some workforce development support is already
in place. We have a monthly delivery e-update to Gateway 1 consortia
that provides them with important information to support their
planning. Information about workforce development opportunities
have been included in this email. We have also held regional planning
events with consortia in June 2007, at which we dedicated a session
to workforce development planning. Our workforce partners were
involved in these events.
31. We agree that in principle the appointment
of the Diploma champions is a sensible step, and it is to be hoped
they will play a positive role. Clear, consistent and timely communication
will be a significant factor determining acceptance and uptake
of Diplomas. This said, clever marketing cannot and should not
be expected to make good any shortfalls in the quality or integrity
of the Diploma programmes themselves. Ultimately, Diplomas will
stand or fail on the quality of the awards, and the partnerships
that deliver them. Diplomas, to some extent, need to 'sell themselves'.
Publicity campaignsand also the appointment of the Diploma
Championstherefore only make sense in the context of a
prior focus on rigorous quality assurance and exacting project
management standards, to ensure a high quality product emerges.
We agree wholeheartedly with this recommendation.
And yes, the development of Diplomas requires unprecedented
collaboration between those inside the education system and those
who are outside it, like employers, but who rely on what it produces.
All have worked very hard to get us to the position we are in
now, uniquely placed to deliver a qualification that will give
young people opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge which
are truly relevant and really valued by employers, and which will
help them continue in learning to the highest level they can achieve.