School diplomas 'dogged by confusion'

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The Government's flagship diplomas could be doomed to failure unless ministers scrap A-levels and GCSEs as free-standing qualifications, headteachers warned.

Confusion among parents and a lack of interest from students could condemn the diplomas to second-class status unless ministers act quickly to simplify the system, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said.

Diplomas are due to be taken from September by about 40,000 students in five subjects: IT, health construction, engineering, and creative and media. But schools have already dropped some subjects because of a lack of interest.

Speaking at the start of the union's annual conference in Brighton yesterday, John Dunford, the ASCL's general secretary, said: "The fear is that the take-up will not be as high as we would like it to be, and certainly not as high as the Government would like it to be. People aren't going to go for something they don't understand."

The union called on ministers to bring existing A-levels and GCSEs within the diploma system, so all pupils would study for a "general diploma". This would spell the end of GCSEs and A-levels as free-standing qualifications.