By Claire West

Commenting on the publication of Ofsted's evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the Diploma programme entitled 'Diplomas: the second year', Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union, welcomed the report and said:

"There are many positive indications in the report that the new diploma programme has made a real difference to the lives of young people and it is clear that they are valued by employers.

"Ofsted has highlighted the need for schools, colleges and employers to work together. This is where the qualification has been most successful.

"The Coalition Government should take note that to be effective vocational qualifications, like many other aspects of education, need partnership working between schools and colleges rather than being pitched to compete against each other in a pseudo-marketplace.

"The Report highlights some useful recommendations for dealing with the issues surrounding the functional skills element of the programme and tackling gender stereotyping. This was always going to be a most challenging area.

"To say that only a third of students have passed the diploma is a distortion of the truth. The diploma programme is not the same as traditional qualifications. There are several elements to the programme and students do not pass or fail at a fixed point in the year. Students will either pass the course over the next few months or at the end of two years if that is the option they chose.

"However the serial detractors of state education who seek to denigrate schools and wish to downgrade the status of vocational education will not let this fact get in the way of their constant carping and criticism.

"Those genuinely interested in education will look beyond the headlines and read the report in full before passing judgement."