Sixth-formers to study robotics

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The study of robotics, nutrition and the installation of electrical equipment will take their place alongside traditional academic subjects in the sixth-form of the future.

Ministers published details yesterday of new specialised vocational diplomas that will be offered alongside A-levels in classrooms from September 2008.

Five new diplomas will be offered in the first instance - construction and the built environment, IT, creative and media studies, health and social care and engineering - rising to 14 diplomas by 2013.

Students will be able to study the subjects either at the equivalent of A-level standard or GCSE. The specialised diplomas are the Government's alternative to the model for exams outlined in the report by Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector, on the future of exams. He envisaged scrapping the existing GCSE and A-level system - and replacing it with an overarching diploma that embraced academic and vocational studies.

Many in the education world believe the Government has made a mistake in developing separate vocational diplomas - claiming they will never achieve parity of recognition with academic qualifications until they are under the same umbrella.

But ministers say the exams are being developed in consultation with industry - to provide qualifications recognised by employers.