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However, we do not support Amendment No. 98. We feel that it looks back to the days of GCEs when there was a division between the sheep and the goats: GCEs for the brighter pupils and CSEs for the less bright pupils. On the whole, we feel that the IGCSE is based on the old GCE standard and is not necessarily appropriate as a broad examination across a whole range.
We have a great deal of sympathy for Amendment No. 99, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but our policy is to implement the Tomlinson report which would have brought this about. The amendment to which I want to speak tries to bring a little more flexibility into the system of specialised diplomas that is being introduced. I raised this issue in Committee and since then I have had an opportunity to meet the QCA and Ken Boston to discuss what is being proposed under the specialised diplomas. I now have a much better understanding of what is intended and how the process will work.
I tabled this amendment again largely because I want to continue to register the discontent on these Benches with the Governments interpretation of the Tomlinson report. The new specialised diplomas, if studied through to level 3, which is the A-level equivalent standard, will incorporate many of the Tomlinson proposals: the broader base of studies with a continuing role for maths and English, side-by-side, for example, with engineering and the need for extended essays or the practical equivalent in terms of a completed piece of artwork or an artefact. We applaud that. We are pleased that these generally welcome aspects of the Tomlinson report are to be incorporated into the diplomas but we are disturbed about the degree to which the choice between diploma and the GCSE and A-level route is likely to be made at 14 rather than at 16, or indeed at 13 in terms of choices to be made at key stage 4.
As presented in the Bill, key stage 4 is when the routes divide and pupils are given the choice of the GCSE route, which leads on to A-level, or the specialised diploma route. We are all agreed that it is
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The Minister will emphasise, I am sure, the degree to which students may switch courses at 16 and that the diploma courses at level 3 will be an A-level equivalent and provide a good route to university entrance, while the student who has taken the diploma course rather than GCSE may be able to proceed to AS and A-levels. How many actually will switch at this stage is yet to be seen. However, it is very depressing to read in the Times Educational Supplement of 13 October that many schools and local authorities are currently planning to ignore these new specialised diplomas in the hope, as the headline has it, that they will just go away.
High-achieving schools focusing on GCSE and A-levels fear that if they shift their focus they will lose their current high position in league tables. Low-achieving schools are concentrating on raising their league table position and, again, do not wish to divert effort and training into the new, untried areas. I hope that that report in the Times Educational Supplement was unduly alarmist and that things may change when the programme begins to roll out in 2008. As things stand, however, we are fearful that diplomas will be seen as an appropriate route only for pupils who are not bright enough to take GCSE and achieve an A-to-C grade and that those who switch from the GCSE route to the diploma route at 16 will be those deemed to have poor prospects for A-level.
A key proposal in the Tomlinson report was for all pupils to have the possibility of studying the practical side-by-side with the more theoretical. The present proposals do not fulfil that ambition. This amendment has been tabled in theI suspect rather vainhope that the Government will even at this late hour introduce more flexibility into the choices available.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, Amendment No. 98 would give governing bodies the power to introduce IGCSE courses in English, maths and science and add the IGCSE to the list of qualifications acceptable for the achievement and attainment tables. This issue has been raised on several occasions during debates on the Bill in this House and in another place. We have given it a great deal of thought.
The IGCSE is a reputable qualification which some schools in this country clearly regard as beneficial to their students. However, we have a national statutory curriculum in place to ensure that
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In order to take that forward, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to study the IGCSE and to give us its advice. We have now received its report. My right honourable friend proposes to ask the QCAwith the agreement of Cambridge Assessment and Edexcel, the two awarding bodies offering the IGCSEto publish its report so that the Government can invite a wider consultation within the education community and beyond on the IGCSEs use in the maintained sector. We will then look at the results of that consultation with an open mind. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will find this a constructive way forward and that she, her party and other noble Lords who have expressed an interest will contribute to the consultation. At the end of that consultation, my right honourable friend and I will look at whether it would be appropriate to allow the IGCSE to be offered in state schools.
Amendment No. 99, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, seeks to ensure that all young people, whatever their level of ability, have access to courses in which they can succeed and to which they are suited. I broadly agreed with the noble Lords remarks. In the past our curriculum has not been sufficiently flexible or rich to offer students opportunities of the kind that the noble Lord described. We accept that we must do a great deal more to meet their needs and to ensure that they have a successful experience of education so that they can leave school with skills they can apply in the workplace and are not held back by an unduly rigid curriculum and set of opportunities in school.
I believe that the reforms we are putting in place will substantially, although perhaps not entirely, meet the points that the noble Lord raised. We probably part company only on the issue of continuing entitlements. Perhaps I may say to him in passing that not all entitlements are statutory. If they were, we would not have the problem that we now have in modern languages and we would not be inviting the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to issue his report. That is a classic area, and there are many others, where we have entitlements to provision within the curriculum that are not mandatory. They sometimes cause us difficulties because they lead students to choose not to follow those courses. In respect of modern languages, which is a pertinent issue, it was precisely with the group of students which the noble Lord mentioned in mindthose who are under-motivated by the current curriculum and need more flexibility as they come up to GCSEthat we were influenced to give more flexibility, to allow more opportunities for particularly work-related learning, and not to oblige students who have ceased to be motivated by particular subjects to continue all the way to 16.
That comes at a price, though, and our debates on modern languages during the Bills passage show that the price can be a serious one where students choose not to follow courses that we regard as worth while. But we have been prepared to go down that road. The issue of some difficulty is the core subjects, which the noble Lord mentioned and the House would not wish to see unstudied in state schools up to the age of 16. Even here, however, I suspect that the difference between the noble Lord and myself is more apparent than real. He said that he would wish functional English and mathematics to continue to be taught, and so do we.
The introduction of diplomas will give more flexibility on that. The foundation level of the diplomawhich is geared at students who currently achieve between grades D and G at GCSE, precisely the group that the noble Lord mentionedwill offer those students the opportunity to succeed with a worthwhile qualification. That will include, in its generic components, English and mathematics of a functional nature and not the whole programme leading to the current GCSE. Equally, we recognise the larger role that work-related learning can play. From September we have introduced the key stage 4 engagement programme, with precisely the sorts of students that the noble Lord mentioned in mind. It is designed to offer a motivating and engaging route for 14 to 16 year-olds at risk of disaffection, has a significant work focus of up to two days a week and is tailored to individual circumstances. From September, 21 schemes began for up to 5,000 young people. We shall study the experience of those schemes with care to see whether they are capable of wider application. I will see that the noble Lord has full details of them and can contribute to the ongoing debate about how we take this part of curriculum development forward.
Amendment No. 100, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, seeks to allow all young people to choose to study both a specialised diploma and a course of study in one or more of the four entitlement areas of the arts, humanities, design and technology and modern foreign languages. The noble Baroness described this as a probing amendment, to understand more what our thinking was. I believe that her objectives are met by the design of the diploma as it is being taken forward by the sector skills councils, the departments and the QCA.
At each of the three levelslevel 1, the foundation level; level 2, which is equivalent to GCSEs; andlevel 3, which is equivalent to A-levelsthe specialised diplomas will have three components: a generic componentEnglish, maths and ICT; a principal learning component that will be sector-related to the area of the diploma; and, crucially, an additional specialist learning component. That additional specialist learning component may be further intensive study in the specialist area of the diplomafor example, a student studying engineering might study mechanical engineering in greater depth as part of his additional specialist learningor it may involve taking additional subjects within the scope of the diploma, which would, for example, enable students in any of the diploma lines to study modern foreign languages as part of their additional learning. At level 2, the entire diploma will be equivalent to approximately six GCSEs. We have
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I understand the point that the noble Baroness made, but we are not seeking to introduce new rigidities into the system. The whole purpose of the diploma is to significantly enlarge opportunities and make it much more possible for students to match theoretical and applied learning. We do not believe that it will be difficult for students to change diploma lines between levels 2 and 3. Students are not being required at the age of 14 to take a decision about their diploma line that will bind them until they finish school or college at the age of 18. On the contrary, the level 2 diploma, which is likely to be equivalent to six GCSEs at grades A* to C, will take students to the age of 16 when they will decide whether to take A-levels or to follow a diploma line at level 3, in exactly the same way as students who have gone down the conventional GCSE route decide at the end of their GCSEs. We are not in the business of introducing new rigidities.
The article in the Times Educational Supplement on the introduction of the diplomas to which the noble Baroness referred was unduly alarmist. We will be putting significant resources behind the diploma and exerting all the powers of persuasion and encouragement that the QCA and my department have. We do not intend the diploma to be yet another failed experiment in the introduction of a broader curriculum. Because of the important entitlement that is set out in the Bill, we will be in a very strong position to require schools and colleges to take the introduction of diploma lines very seriously. We are also establishing 14-to-19 partnerships across the country to ensure that the full range of the new curriculum, including the specialised diplomas, is available on a collaborative basis between schools and colleges in the partnerships. That will give significant impetus to making the enlarged curriculum properly available in all parts of the country. I hope that I have met the noble Baronesss concerns on that point.
Amendment No. 102, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, would mean that students are no longer required to complete assessment at AS-level in order to achieve an A-level. The AS-level currently makes up 50 per cent of A-level assessment and is an important step in the transition from GCSE to A-level. We agree that there should be less assessment and
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Amendment No. 103 deals with the IB. I entirely associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker in supporting the IB. It is an excellent qualification and should be widely available in the state system. However, the amendment is unnecessary as the IB is already an approved qualification in the state system. State-maintained and independent schools are already free to offer the IB to students and it is currently being taught in over 70 schools and colleges in England including a large and growing number of maintained schools. The Government are keen that students in the maintained sector should have a wider opportunity to study it if they so wish.
The international baccalaureate diploma is an excellent qualification and is supported by noble Lords on all sides of the House. I welcome that support. It is important that the Minister was able to confirm that Amendment No. 103 is unnecessary because local governing bodies are already permitted to introduce the IB diploma.
The Minister needs to take the IGCSE seriously. He said that the QCA has agreed to publish a report and to consult on its wider use in the sector. It is important that the Government respond to the need to look at the IGCSE and I welcome their offer to allow Her Majestys Opposition to contribute to that consultation. I want to encourage the Government in this direction and to send a strong message to the QCA that it is right to allow schools to introduce the IGCSE. Why should children in the state sector be denied that real opportunity to improve their life chances? As I said in speaking to the amendment on separate sciences, I know that many parents feel strongly that their children should have a much more rigorous curriculum. In recent days I have spoken to a number of heads in the independent sector and they have told me that the IGCSE truly teaches the language and vocabulary of science. That is why so many schools in the private sector have opted for it in science and mathematics. If we are to create scientists and mathematicians for the 21st century so that our children will be able to compete at the forefront of the global economy of the future, they must have the opportunity to study and cope with a harder and
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On that basis and encouraged by what the Minister said about the need for consultation and a real consideration of introducing the IGCSE as an optionthis is not prescriptive, but as an optionfor schools to be able to offer their pupils in maths and science, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
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