National Evaluation of Diplomas: The First Year of Delivery

A report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (Sarah Lynch, Tami McCrone, Pauline Wade, Gill Featherstone, Kelly Evans and Sarah Golden) and the University of Exeter (Gill Haynes), commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (now  the Department for Education)

The 14-19 Diplomas were introduced in September 2008 as part of government reforms of the education opportunities open to 14-19 year olds. Diplomas are practically-oriented qualifications and embed employer engagement into their curricula. This report analyses their impact and reviews the implementation and delivery processes so far. Its “complementary, mixed-method approach” is as follows:

  • Stakeholder surveys applied to a study sample of 30 consortia (178 institutions), representative in terms of government office region (GOR), free school meal eligibility, achievement and type of school. Surveys were of:
  • pre- and post-16 learners (820 from Year 10 and 176 from Year 12 – 10% of total Diploma uptake) from the first year of Diploma studies to 19 years old, including a comparison survey (1,118 from Year 10 and 225 from Year 12) of those who did not take the Diplomas
  • Diploma teachers, 166 received from 74 of the institutions
  • A telephone survey of 70 parents and carers and 24 interviews  with parents of those who did not decide to take a Diploma
  • Longitudinal, qualitative case studies; in-depth semi-structured interviews (13 of these taking place with employers), 15 consortia which were in all nine GOR, a mixture of urban/rural areas and types of Local Authority.
  • Statistical analyses of external datasets

Using a range of data analysis techniques researchers found that learners greatly appreciated the opportunity to visit organisations outside their learning provider and that this increased their motivation to study and attend school. Just over half strongly agreed or agreed that it helped them understand the Diploma better, that it made their studies more interesting and that it used skills they were learning. The other half of responses was strongly weighted towards ‘does not apply’ and ‘not sure’ rather than strongly disagree/disagree.

The top reason for choosing to do a Diploma was its close relationship to the career the student had interest in (58% of Year 10 and 76% of Year 12 learners highlighted this). Reasons for high satisfaction levels foregrounded the extra skills and industry-relevant experience they were gaining (82% year 10 and 61% year 12).

Employers highlighted the benefits of building a relationship with young people who “might be their future workforce, and providing a valuable service to the local community which provided good public relations”(p67). Some institutions had trouble engaging employers, however and researchers found that “success at engaging employers was very varied across consortia and seemed to be dependent on local circumstances”. EBPO business contacts made the task easier and avoided clashing with the time constraints faced by many teachers, who “welcomed the link between theory and real world practices of industry, business and the professions”.

National Evaluation of Diplomas: The First Year of Delivery – full report