September 9, 2008
How Do the New School Rules Work?
By MATT ROPER
FEEL a bit of a dunce when it comes to keeping up with our ever- changing education system? You're not the only one...With the introduction of diplomas, apprenticeships and now a new school leaving age, knowing what's what seems about as simple as working out the square root of pi on an abacus.
From this week, all children starting secondary school in England will be legally required to stay in education until they are 17. This is the first change in the leaving age since 1972, when it was raised from 15 to 16.
And it's not the only radical change taking effect in schools this term.
So to get you to the top of the class, here's a lesson on the new school rules, answering all the key questions.
Now, pay attention at the back...
Q WHY is the Government raising the school leaving age?
A AT the moment most young people who don't want to go to university leave school at 16, after their GCSEs.
But without getting any further education or training, many of them end up on the dole.
Ministers estimate that around 190,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 are not in education, employment or training.
So from this week, 11-year-olds starting secondary school must stay in education until they are 17. And new pupils starting in September 2009 will have to continue until they are 18.
Q WHAT if kids don't want to stay at school?
A JUST because you are now legally obliged to remain in education doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go back to school after your GCSEs. You could even get a job - as long as it has one day a week's release for training.
Also you could take a paid apprenticeship, or do a diploma with significant practical elements and work experience.
And you can always stay on at school or college to do your A- levels.
QI'VE heard exams are changing? So will there now be GCSEs in hairdressing?
A NOT exactly. But there will be some major changes to the curriculum.
For 11 to 14-year-olds there will be a greater focus on basic skills in English and maths and ICT (information and communication technology).
Students who would normally have to take a set of GCSEs from the age of 14 will also be able to choose a diploma or a young apprenticeship.
And from the age of 16, young people will be able to choose between taking the usual A-levels and the new diploma, an apprenticeship, or other work-related qualifications.
Q WHAT'S the difference between a GCSE and a diploma?
A THE new diplomas will be available as an alternative to a set of GCSEs, although most pupils will still take GCSE maths and English.
The key difference from GCSEs is that the diplomas aren't taught entirely in the classroom. A major part of the courses will be practical and specific to a particular career.
Students can choose between five different diplomas - Creative and Media, Information Technology, Health and Social Care, Construction and the Built Environment, and Engineering. By 2013 there will be 17 combinations of diplomas on offer.
Q SO how will the new apprenticeships work?
A The Government hopes that offering paid work with training and a qualification at the end will motivate those youngsters who are not as academically minded as others.
When the scheme is fully rolled out over 180 types of apprenticeships will be available, as an alternative to GCSEs and A- levels, in 80 different sectors, including Tourism and Retail.
Q WHY are these changes being introduced?
A EMPLOYERS are complaining that many school-leavers lack basic skills when they start work.
As well as maths and English, this includes skills such as presentation, communication and teamwork. By teaching these skills from an early age, school leavers will be better prepared for life in the "real world".
Ministers hope to encourage those who are not academically gifted to continue learning - hence the new diplomas and apprenticeships which mix classroom teaching with practical training and work placements.
Q WHAT if my child isn't ready to make a career choice at 14?
A THE diplomas are designed to be flexible so students can move from one to another. They can also include GCSEs, A-levels or BTEC of their choice.
It means pupils could do a diploma instead of a GCSE then go on to study A-levels, or do GCSEs before taking an advanced diploma.
If, say, they are interested in nursing but also keen on languages they could take the Health and Social Care diploma along with GCSEs in French and German.
While the diplomas are designed to prepare students to go straight into work, the qualifications will also be accepted by universities.
Q ARE GCSEs and A-levels staying the same?
A IN 2009-10 the content of GCSEs will be modernised to incorporate workplace skills.
A-levels will also change. There will be fewer modules and greater depth, more open-ended questions and more extended writing.
An A* grade will be added to reward exceptional performance. Students can also take an optional extended project - it allows them to pursue an area of special interest and do more independent research.
Q WHAT about students who struggle with exams?
A A NEW course will be introduced for students with special needs.
The Foundation Learning Tier recognises learning in personal and job-related skills. Students begin at Entry Level and progress to Level 1 then Level 2 - by which stage they should be ready to start work.
The system has been designed to prevent these pupils leaving school without any qualifications. They can provide a stepping stone to GCSEs, diploma or an apprenticeship later on.
Q WILL there be financial help available to students who stay on in full-time education?
A IF young people are unable to continue in education without financial support, they can receive funding through the Education Maintenance Allowance.
Q HOW do the new qualifications compare to GCSEs and A-Levels?
A THE Foundation Diploma is equivalent to five GCSEs, the High Diploma is equivalent to seven GCSEs, and the Advanced Diploma is equivalent to 3.5 A-levels.
Q WHEN and where will the diplomas be introduced?
A SCHOOLS and colleges in 146 areas across England will offer the diploma to around 20,000 pupils from this month. More places will begin teaching it as it is phased in from 2009 to 2011.
Now for the maths lesson..
18 education leaving age for children starting secondary school in 2009
189,500 young people aged between 16 and 18 are not in education, employment or training
20,000 pupils will be offered the chance to take diplomas this month nationwide
17 types of the new diploma will be available by 2013
5 the number of GCSEs the Foundation Diploma will be equal to
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