Diplomas are not a solution

April 24, 2008

It was unlucky that Claudio Vignali's puff for diplomas ("I'm sold on diplomas", 17 April) was published the same day as leading examiners Edexcel's damning report on the new qualifications. As a member of the steering group for the diploma in retail, Professor Vignali would say that his "fellow academics are solidly behind diplomas", wouldn't he? Like the University and College Union and the head teachers' union - but not the National Union of Teachers, who know the shambolic reality of diploma delivery on the ground - he urges us to make them work.

Those not sold on diplomas reject them not because they're against change but because there's been no change: A levels are still the gold standard. Even though many private schools and research universities prefer the Cambridge Pre-U qualification, A levels will gain entry to the next tier down of teaching universities, while diplomas (as the leaving certificate for apprenticeships equals the new youth training scheme) may serve for entry to the Million+ group of training universities. Raised fees in 2010 will deepen these divisions.

Patrick Ainley, University of Greenwich.

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