The rise and demise of the 14-19 diploma

PhD Thesis

Senior, Lynn 2015. The rise and demise of the 14-19 diploma. PhD Thesis
AuthorsSenior, Lynn
TypePhD Thesis

The introduction of the 14-19 Diploma into the English Qualifications framework was the most developed attempt at creating a vocational qualification which advanced beyond mere job training. The Diploma offered vocational education with occupational capacity, underpinned by functional skills and academic subject content. It was truly the first hybrid qualification that attempted to combine the hitherto separate vocational and academic curricula. This study examines the educational policies that led to the introduction of the Diploma and the reasons behind its ultimate failure and demise. The study comprises two parts. The first is an investigation into the continuing professional development needs that this new initiative created for teachers. This led to the publication in 2010 of a book, The Essential Guide to Teaching 14-19 Diplomas, a description and account of which is presented in this thesis. This book was the first of its kind aimed at supporting teachers working with the Diploma. The key research findings addressed were the need to understand the structure and constituent elements of the Diploma and to provide practical advice on how to deliver effective Initial Advice and Guidance (IAG), Personal Thinking and Learning Skills (PTLS) and Functional Skills. The second part of the study is concerned with the aftermath of the Diploma. This involved an examination of the professional ethos and standing of vocational subject teachers within the author’s consortium of colleges and schools involved in teacher training, and their reactions to the withdrawal of support for the qualification following the change of government in 2010. The study concludes with an analysis of a series of semi-structured interviews or ‘conversations’ with leading educationalists concerning their attitudes to, and involvement with, the development of the Diploma and any ‘lessons for the future’. The key findings from the second part of the study are there were several issues in the development and implementation of the Diploma that were critical factors leading to its demise. The first issue that arose from both the initial and final phases of the research was that the vocational Diploma was introduced very quickly following the rejection of Sir Mike Tomlinson’s proposals for linking academic and vocational learning. The qualification that was developed, the Vocational Diploma introduced in 2008, later renamed as the ‘Diploma’, only went part way to achieving the proposals put forward by Tomlinson. This was due to the complexity of collaboration between three sectors, pre- and post-compulsory education and employers, plus the complexity and breadth of the component parts of the qualification. Also arising from the research is that the rushed introduction did not allow the developers to pilot, review or consult effectively with the major stakeholders. The second issue, which is a thread throughout the research, is that the rush to implementation, coupled with the complexity of the qualification, demonstrated that there was a clear need for professional development within the teaching profession tasked with implementing the qualification. Indeed, the initial phase of the research highlights clear areas that teachers were unfamiliar with and were anxious about. The third issue that arises focuses on the demise of the qualification and the impact that it has had upon the teaching profession tasked with delivering it. The demise has created a certain disillusionment and loss of professional identity amongst the Diploma teachers and the teachers of vocational curriculum. There is now an uncertainty and mistrust in new vocational qualifications and there are real questions as to whether the Technical Baccalaureate, introduced in 2013, and the new 16-19 vocational study programmes are fit for purpose. The final issue is whether we should be looking back at the original proposals put forward by Tomlinson or whether we should be looking at a return to job-specific training. In conclusion, the common theme that arose from both sets of participants in the final stage of the study was of lost opportunities and the recognition that, after the demise of the diploma, there is a continuing state of policy confusion and that any new development needs to be from the ‘bottom up’.

KeywordsVocational education; Diploma; CPD; Apprenticeship; 14-19 education
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/578741
File Access Level
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Sep 2015, 08:54
Publication datesAug 2015
ContributorsUniversity of Derby
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