Diplomas: The Second Year – An Evaluation of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Diplomas for 14 to 19 year olds

A report by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted)

This report is based on a series of Ofsted evaluation visits to 21 Diploma consortia between September 2009 and March 2010, amounting to 42 schools, 21 colleges of further education and sixth form colleges, three work-based learning providers and four local authority skills centres. Inspectors interviewed managers, staff, learners, local authority officers, representatives from the Learning and Skills Council and employers. They collected evidence of learners’ achievement and observed delivery across eight Diploma lines of learning.

For those aspects of the Diploma related to ‘principal learning’ and the work-related environment, students “showed high levels of motivation and good behaviour”, high attendance and greater enthusiasm “in the lessons where they were given the opportunity to use and show their competence with industry-standard resources”. Students showed ‘good’ levels of attainment in 20 out of the 27 lessons seen and made outstanding progress in two.

Employers were closely involved in the curriculum planning process and successfully integrated it into a range of engagement activities (such as work placements, industry-led projects and visiting Diploma providers). They operated as key sources of Diploma Information, Advice and Guidance as well as participating in the induction sessions for new students. Opportunities to engage with employers also positively impacted on students’ capacity for independent learning and aided their personal development. Furthermore, “such highly motivating, realistic experiences developed learners’ vocational knowledge, skills and understanding”. Where teachers resorted to “a narrow range of teaching strategies” (thus reducing work-related opportunities), students “had low levels of motivation and failed to understand how their learning related to the world of work” as a result.

The Diplomas have not had an observable impact on occupational segregation or students with special educational needs: inspectors found that the qualification reflected gender-stereotypical choices and also had low take-up by those with learning difficulties or disabilities.

Diplomas: The Second Year – An Evaluation of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Diplomas for 14- to 19-year-olds – full report