The approach to delivering the Diploma employs a consortium model requiring schools, colleges, employers and the local authority to work together in gateway partnerships. Before the consortium can deliver the Diploma they have to pass through a gateway process that ensures they have all of the required resources in place.
Some Diploma partnerships have had disappointing results in their gateway applications.
There are many reasons why partnerships fail to get through the gateway, but a significant number fail to realise the importance of truly impartial Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) for students considering Diploma options.
Many believe that in choosing a Diploma students are choosing a direction for their future education and ultimate career choice. However, many educational practioners would argue that Diplomas offer sufficient flexibility to allow a change in direction for learners beyond a Diploma.
Ultimately how the Diplomas work and who chooses to do them will be down, in great part, to the IAG they receive in years 7, 8 and 9.
Year 9 options have always been a daunting time for young people and their parents and it is the first time they will have made subject choices that can have a profound affect on their future direction.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) evaluated the preparation for delivering Diplomas within the first gateway partnerships. They found that:
- Only 47% of Year 9 students were made aware of the Diploma options that were available
- Just 19% of students were made aware of the study opportunities available to them after completing a Diploma
- The most asked questions by students regarding the Diploma were about GCSE/A Level equivalence, what topics they would study and how the Diploma could support progression into employment or Higher Education.
Additionally, DCSF noted that some schools lacked information to support the Diploma and had anxieties about promoting the new qualifications. They found some parents and IAG practitioners lacked knowledge of Diploma options. The report concluded that young people, parents and IAG staff needed more awareness of the Diploma options in their local area.
Many Diploma partnerships have introduced a broader approach to IAG choosing to deliver it across Years 7 to 9, integrating it into a personal planning process for young people. In many cases this process has been linked to area wide online systems such as the Local Area Prospectus (LAP) or a Common Application Process (CAP). These systems break down the barriers to engagement with the Diplomas through the universal availability of information about what courses are available locally.
Many of these systems provide guidance tools that link subjects to careers and careers back to subjects. They allow students to explore their career ideas and in many cases use skills and interests matching systems to suggest careers for further investigation. The use of technology in this way, when combined with professional careers guidance, provides a powerful IAG tool and widens access.
In conclusion, the success of the Diploma comes down to developing effective IAG provision, be it through traditional routes or using technology to provide greater access. The nature of Diploma delivery through a consortium approach requires truly impartial IAG if the travel to learn model, with schools sharing students, is to work.