Richard Garner: Diplomas have become Britain's forgotten qualification

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The Independent Online

It seems that the one thing that is taboo on the new diploma course in hair and beauty is ... cutting people’s hair!

A survey by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, of the second year of Labour’s flagship programme for schools and colleges shows youngsters have become “bored by too much theory”.

In construction and the built environment, there is also little time for construction or building.

No-one can doubt the academic content of the courses (Labour saw them as a bridge between the academic and vocational divide), though.

Hair and beauty again. “The teacher questioned the learners directly about the different characteristics of african, Asian and European hair-types,” Ofsted intones.

“Through carefully planned discussion, learners explored why European hair varied from straight to curly. The popularity of hair braiding among Europeans was discussed and students identified some of the potential problems, such as having a sunburnt scalp if it was dome on holiday in a hot climate without adequate protection.”

The diplomas have become the country’s forgotten qualification since the advent of the Coalition Government – one of whose first decisions was to scrap plans for new academic science foreign language and humanities diplomas .

They should now turn their attentions to what to do with the rest.

* As with its more famous cousin, the Oscars’ ceremony, there may not be many dry eyes in the house when this year’s Teaching Awards get under way at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, this Sunday and screened on BBC 2 later that evening.

Caroline Evans, chief executive of the awards for the past five years, can remember a few noteworthy highlights, such as Ed Vickerman, oustanding new teacher of the year in 2009 who told his audience: “I was told I would never be a teacher because I have dyslexia.

“If I can do it, everybody can do it.”

Meeghan Tearle, a teacher at Cantell Maths and Computing College in Southampton, experienced similar difficulties in becoming a teacher.

She was turned down by three teacher training colleges before finding acceptance.

After winning her regional award, she was found trotting across the road from her former teacher training college in Winchester.

“I wanted to show my tutor my award and I’ve given it to him,” she said.

Incidentally, when she is not teaching in the classroom, she works with homeless people and those dealing with drug addictions.

Caroline has seen the nominations for the awards since she took charge of ceremonies. This year it was 9,200 – next year it is already 18,000 with nominations not closing until February. The biggest rise in nominators is amongst pupils themselves.

Which brings me to a video on the awards where nominated teachers are variously described as “evil” and “sick” by their pupils.

My sources tell me these are compliments and a sure sign that the recipient of them is likely to be a winner.

* Disadvantaged pupils could be forgiven for being a little bit baffled as a result of the comprehensive spending review.

Their schools are to receive extra money – a “pupil premium” – to help teach them

However, if they then want to stay on in school or college after 16, their education maintenance allowances of up to £30 a week are being scrapped.