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Government Focuses on Basic and Vocational Skills


There will be a tougher focus on the three Rs and new work-based diplomas for 14 to 19-year-olds in England, but GCSEs and A levels will remain, the government has announced.

The new diplomas will be set at three levels and cover 14 different areas of study.

They will only be applied to vocational studies and will run alongside GCSEs and A levels.

The proposals are the government's response to the ideas put forward by the working party on 14-19 education chaired by the former chief inspector of England's schools Sir Mike Tomlinson. The review proposed a single diploma across academic and vocational studies.

The White Paper proposals for reform include:
* Rationalising the 3,500 vocational qualifications currently in favour of 14 specialised diplomas.
* All diplomas to include study in functional Maths and English.
* All pupils to master the 3Rs. There will be a guarantee that nobody achieving high grades at GCSE English and Maths will have done so without having mastered the basics.
* A new general (GCSE) Diploma to be awarded to those that achieve 5 A*-C GCSEs that include English and Maths.
* More information on an individual’s performance will be made available to universities such as their exam scores.
* A levels to be made tougher.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said the first four specialised diplomas would be available in every area by 2008: in information and communication technology, engineering, health and social care and creative and media studies.

Four more subjects would follow in 2010, with all 14 available by 2015.

They would be designed in close collaboration with employers in the form of the sector skills councils - and, at the higher level, with universities.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the decisions to focus on basic skills and not to scrap GCSEs and A levels.

Director-general of the CBI Sir Digby Jones said: "Firms know and understand A-levels and GCSEs and are more concerned with what qualifications offer pupils than what they are called. Business wants higher standards, not dramatically different structures.

"Proposals for radical qualification reform threatened to divert resources, attention and political will from tackling poor basic skills."

* Are you confident the changes will improve school leavers skills for work? Have your say by adding a comment below.


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