National Evaluation of Diplomas: The first year of delivery

Gill Featherstone, Pauline Wade, Sarah Golden, Tami McCrone, Kelly Evans, Sarah Lynch, Gill Haynes

25 March 2010

Research report available to download from DFE

Research brief available to download from DFE

The introduction of the Diplomas for 14-19 year olds is a central part of the government’s reform of 14-19 education and represents a major innovation in educational opportunity for young people in England. The Diplomas are delivered by a consortium which includes schools, colleges, training providers, employers and higher education institutions (HEIs). They will be offered at three levels and across 17 lines of learning which are being implemented in four phases (from September 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011). The first five lines of learning started in 2008 (Gateway 1) were: Construction and the Built Environment; Engineering; Information Technology; Creative and Media; and Society, Health and Development.

In January 2008, the DCSF commissioned the NFER and the University of Exeter to conduct the national evaluation of the implementation and impact of Diplomas over the period 2008-2013. This summary reports the findings of research which explored experiences of the first year of delivery of the first five Diploma lines of learning amongst a sample of 30 consortia approved to commence delivery in September 2008. It presents the findings from surveys of pre- and post-16 Diploma and comparison learners, Diploma teachers and parents/carers of Diploma learners, and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and Diploma learners in a sub-sample of 15 case-study consortia.

The national evaluation of diplomas

Key Findings

  • Satisfaction with the Diploma: The majority of Diploma learners were satisfied with their Diploma course and were enjoying it. They found it to be interesting and different from other learning experiences and particularly welcomed the practical elements and links with the world of work.
  • Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG): IAG is important for a positive Diploma learning experience. The more satisfied Year 10 Diploma learners were with IAG prior to starting their course, the more satisfied they were overall with their Diploma. They also had more positive attitudes towards the Diploma and were more likely to think their course would have a positive impact on their future. The findings also emphasise the need for IAG to clearly inform learners about the subject content and learning style, particularly the balance between practical and theory-based learning.
  • Diploma delivery: Collaboration between institutions was common and seemed to be working well. In-house delivery was also common, often because institutions felt there was no need for support from other providers to deliver particular lines of learning, although there were instances of institutions having concerns about collaboration.
  • The teaching experience: Teachers felt the Diploma involved a different teaching and learning experience to other qualifications. They valued the opportunity for using a holistic model of teaching and the encouragement of independent learning, reported greater use of interactive teaching techniques and welcomed the link between theory and work-related learning.