Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Specialised diplomas: transforming the 14-19 landscape in England?

By Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours


Reforming vocational education in the English education and training system has occupied governments for at least the last three decades, the latest development being the introduction of 14 linesi of Specialised Diplomas. Using an historical analysis of qualifications reform, we suggest they are unlikely to transform 14-19 education and training. The failure to reform academic qualifications alongside their vocational equivalents is likely to result in ‘academic drift’, lack of status and a relatively low level of uptake for these new awards, a process compounded by low employer recognition of broad vocational qualifications. In rejecting the Tomlinson Report’s central proposal for a unified diploma system covering all 14-19 education and training, we argue that the Government may have condemned the Specialised Diplomas to become a middle-track qualification for a minority of 14-19 years olds, situated between the majority academic pathway and the sparsely populated apprenticeship route

Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2003). 14-19: Excellence and Opportunity: government response to the 14-19 Green Paper.
  2. (1997). 26 August) Tougher testing for vocational courses The Guardian,
  3. (1990). A British Baccalaureate: overcoming divisions between education and training.
  4. (2005). and the future reform of 14-19 qualifications in England, doi
  5. (2006). Assessment in post-compulsory education: Paper 4: Assessment as learning? How the uses of explicit learning objectives and assessment criteria can come to dominate learning’.
  6. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered’: a policy analysis of the GNVQ assessment regime, doi
  7. (2003). Beyond A Levels: Curriculum
  8. (1997). Dearing and Beyond: 14-19 Curriculum, qualifications and framework
  9. DfES (2005a) 14-19 Education and Skills.
  10. DfES (2006a) The Specialised Diploma Gateway.
  11. DfES (2006b) Specialised Diplomas – your questions answered.
  12. (2002). Does Education Matter? Myths about education and economic growth.(
  13. (1991). Education and Training for the Twenty-First Century.
  14. (2006). Emerging Provision and Practice
  15. (1997). Further Education Development Agency/Institute of Education/Nuffield
  16. (1995). GNVQ Quality Framework (London: NCVQ) Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
  17. (1997). GNVQs and the future of broad vocational qualifications.’ In
  18. (2004). iii Working Group on 14-19 Reform
  19. (2001). It’s the perfect education’: Lifelong learning and the experience of Foundation-level GNVQ student,’
  20. (2002). Learning Autonomy in Post-16 Education: the politics and practice of formative assessment (London: Falmer/Routledge) Ecclestone,
  21. (1993). Learning to Succeed: a radical look at education today and a strategy for the future – Report of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  22. (1999). Policy tensions in vocational education and training for young people: the origins of general national vocational education,
  23. (1997). Problematizing ‘empowerment’ in education and work: an exploration of the GNVQ.
  24. (2005). Reflections on the curious absence of employers, labour market incentives and labour market regulation in English 14-19 policy: first sign of a change in direction?, doi
  25. (1996). Review of Qualifications for 16-19 Year Olds. (London: Schools’ Curriculum and Assessment Authority).
  26. (2003). The Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education: a general or vocational qualification? Broadening the Advanced Level Curriculum.
  27. (1995). The strengths and weaknesses of GNVQs: principles of design. Working Paper no. 4. Learning for the Future Project,
  28. (2004). Working Group on 14-19 Reform
  29. (1997). Working to Learn (London: Institute of Personnel and Development).
  30. (2003). xi The Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training in England and Wales was launched in October
  31. (1995). xii The modes, amount and balance of assessment were problematic in both GNVQs (Capey

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.