At a glance

Understand the diploma qualification which offers opportunities for practical learning and a chance to develop work-related skills.

What are diplomas?

Diplomas are a qualification for 14-19 year olds in England, although many students take them up at 16. They’ve been introduced to provide more options for practical learning, and to encourage more young people to continue studying.

Diplomas aim to provide work-orientated skills in a more creative way - so students get practical training and benefit from work experience. There is less classroom-based learning than with A levels.

Diplomas are ideal if your child has an idea of the area they’d like to work in, and would enjoy practical learning in a real-world setting.

What subjects are available?

Diplomas are still being introduced across the country: there are currently ten subjects, four more will start by the end of 2010 and three more in 2011.

Subjects currently available are:
Construction and the Built Environment
Creative and Media
Information Technology
Society, Health and Development
Environmental and Land-based Studies
Business, Administration and Finance
Manufacturing and Product Design
Hair and Beauty Studies
From September 2010 these subjects will be added:
Travel and Tourism
Public Services
Sport and Active Leisure
Retail Business
From September 2011 - three more academic subjects will be added:

Different levels of diploma and their values

Your child can study a diploma at four levels:

  • A foundation diploma is worth 5 GCSEs at grades D to G (this is designed for under-16s)
  • A higher diploma is worth 7 GCSEs at grades A* to C
  • A progression diploma is worth 2.5 A levels
  • An advanced diploma is worth 3.5 A levels

From 2011, you can also do an extended diploma at any level – this includes more core English and Maths, and increases the diploma’s value. So, the extended foundation diploma is worth 7 GCSEs at grades D to G; the higher is worth 9 GCSEs at grades A* to C, and the advanced diploma is worth 4.5 A levels.

Diplomas aim to give students a wide range of future options. Your child could go on to a job, to future training, or with an advanced diploma, to university.

How are diplomas different from A levels?

Working for a diploma will help your child develop skills that are more directly relevant to the world of work than A levels. Diplomas involve lots of project work and problem-solving. Every diploma involves work experience too.

Because they’re still being introduced, not every diploma course is available everywhere. To find out what’s available in your area, check with your child’s school and visit this website:

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