A Diploma by any other name would smell as sweet

We now have some more details of the new Tech Bacc.

It will be introduced for courses beginning in September 2014, with first inclusion in performance tables in Jan 2017.

I thought a useful comparison here would be with the diploma, so lets have a look:

Tech Bacc Diploma
A level 3 vocational qualification – only the best courses, recognised by employers, will continue to count in league tables; Subject specific principle learning developed in conjunction with the appropriate sector skills council.
A level 3 ‘core maths’ qualification, including AS level maths (further information about core maths courses for post-16 students will be published by the Department for Education (DfE) in due course) Level 2 Maths, English and ICT.
The extended project, which will develop and test students’ skills in extended writing, communication, research, and self-discipline and self-motivation The extended project, which will develop and test students’ skills in extended writing, communication, research, and self-discipline and self-motivation
  Additional Specialist Learning – An A-Level (or Level 3 equivalent) in a complementary subject area.

Well, it has clearly taken a lot of thinking to come up with the structure of the Tech Bacc. And the content selection has clearly been a tricky area.

There are areas where the Tech Bacc is possibly stronger. I agree with the addition of L3 Maths rather than L2. However, the strong suggestion with any L3 Diploma that had a Maths dependency was that L3 Maths was included  – remember the L2 requirement was a minimum.

It is not clear how ‘wide’ the Tech Bacc will be, but will probably be comparable to the 3.5 A-Levels of the Advanced Diploma.

I’m not convinced that the core content is necessarily going to be better. The initial indications that any content backed by five companies registered at companies house will be sufficient does not exactly suggest rigour. The Diploma Principle Learning at least had the benefit of being developed by sector skills councils who knew what their industries required.

On the whole the feeling I have here is of nine wasted years since Tomlinson presented his report. First of all the Government of the time bottled it on those proposals, which was essentially to create a wrapper around all L3 qualifications. They watered these ideas down to create the Diploma, which they made so horrendously complex to deliver. This was in part motivated by the desire to promote partnership working between schools and colleges. This was never going to work on the scale required to make the Diploma programme succeed and created a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy. Then the change of government in 2010 led to the Diplomas themselves being scrapped. This was widely, in my view mistakenly, welcomed at the time.

Now we are back to the Tech Bacc, which is the Diploma, whichever way you want to cut it.

If we want to create a system that gives parity to different pathways in education then the only way to do this is through a common qualification. If on the one hand we have a Tech Bacc and on the other we have A-Levels then there will always be division. Some day a Secretary of State for Education will have the balls to implement Tomlinson. Shame the current one isn’t gutsy enough.