Leading Article: The diploma that could fail

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The Independent Online

The whole point of the Government's new diplomas to run alongside A-levels is that they would do away with the old divide between the academic, which meant prestigious and leading to university, and the vocational, which meant low-level and low-status. By devising a new qualification to be taken by all children, the brainy and the not-so-brainy, and by seeking to get universities to take it seriously, the hope was to improve education for all. But now a survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Sutton Trust shows that, far from overcoming the divide, the diplomas could reinforce it.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, says he wants the diploma to become the "qualification of choice" over A-levels. But, according to the NFER survey, only one-quarter of teachers think the qualification is suitable for those who want to go to university. It is important that the Government ensures that teachers and university lecturers are well briefed on the new diploma, otherwise it will entirely fail to fulfil its aims.

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