GCSEs and A levels should be replaced by a system of diplomas to
encourage more young people to stay on at school, according to a
government-appointed team of experts.
Under the proposals, outlined in the Tomlinson report, young
people aged from 14 to 19 would have a wider choice of studies with
more opportunities to pursue practical and vocational options.
The changes would “raise participation and tackle the
educational causes of disengagement”, claims the final report of
the Working Group on 14-19 Reform, chaired by former chief
inspector of schools Mike Tomlinson.
Diplomas at four different levels – entry, foundation,
intermediate and advanced – would allow students to choose a
mix of subjects.
These would be divided into “core learning” components such as
maths, literacy and ICT which everyone will have to do, and
selected “main learning” options such as academic and vocational
By the age of 19 young people “should have had the opportunity
to develop their individual potential to the full, whether
intellectual, creative, practical or a combination of these”, says
The design of the diplomas is intended to build confidence and
maintain motivation by awarding credits for small achievements, and
the way the diplomas would “interlock” encourages progression from
one level to the next.
By linking the qualifications more closely with employment,
young people would also be persuaded to stay in education and not
go into paid work at age 16 or 17, the report states.
More than 5 per cent of young people reach the end of compulsory
schooling without gaining any qualifications, according to the
Nine per cent of young people are not in education, employment
or training, and 15 per cent are in employment without