UPDATE (March 2005) - The UK Government's White Paper for Education in England and Wales means that most of the changes to education proposed by Tomlinson have been shelved. The White Paper proposes:

1. Work related vocational diplomas will be introduced, starting in 2008 in an attempt to raise the number of teenagers staying on post 16 years. These will include new three level diplomas in 14 subjects including Engineering and Hospitality and Catering.

2. A new diploma for 16 year olds for those pupils who gain five or more GCSEs, including at least a 'C' grade in English and Maths. This diploma will be separate to other specialised diplomas (e.g. Engineering)

3. GCSEs and 'A' Levels will continue alongside the new vocational diplomas.

4. The new diplomas will be the main measure by which schools are judged in the League Tables.

5. Existing vocational courses will be streamlined to three level diplomas in 2015, with employers being closely involved.

6. Pupils will have to pass courses in functional English and Maths and complete work experience to qualify for the new diplomas.

7. The number of 'A' Level modules will be reduced from six to four.

8. Students will be expected to complete an extended project at 'A' Level.

9. Specialist schools are expected to become centres of excellence in the delivery of vocational education.

10. The Key Stage Three curriculum will be reviewed.


Many critics have stated that a great opportunity to modernise Education at 11 to 19 Years has been lost.

The summary of the original Tomlinson Report is outlined below.


(Summary below by the W.A.T.T. Research Team  - November 2004)


The Tomlinson Interim Report is 207 pages in length and for this reason the W.A.T.T. Research Team have produced a summary. In the UK this is viewed as a very important report as it sets out proposed changes in the way all subjects are delivered and major changes to the examination system. The final report was published in October 2004 and proposes major changes to the education of 14 to 19 year olds. These may may be initiated by the Government over the next ten years (by 2014).

The report concentrates on the 14 to 19 age group, as this is a critical phase for young people in terms of personal development and learning. It highlights that too many leave education early or fail to progress. The low staying on rate in the UK puts the UK  27th out of 30 OECD countries. Five percent of young people leave schools and colleges with no qualifications. According to the CBI only fifty five percent of employers are satisfied that young people leave school equipped with the numeracy, literacy and communication skills required by the business world.

Tomlinson argues that in the modern world young people need higher levels of knowledge and skills flexibility which will enable them to cope with the rapidly changing face of work and careers. The report states clearly that school leavers will need a broader knowledge base and the ability to transfer those skills developed in school to the needs of the evolving workplace.

The report suggests that in a modern business world the structure of GCSE examinations are failing to deliver the educational needs of many young people and the needs of business and industry. Tomlinson suggests that the GCSE structure should be replaced with a Diploma. The Diploma will include a 'core' of learning, which involves numeracy, literacy, ICT and communication skills (see diagram below). To gain a Diploma at a particular level students need to demonstrate achievement at this level in both core learning and main learning.

Two types of Diploma will be introduced:

Specialised Diplomas aimed at specific types of employment and areas of further study.

Open Diplomas will incorporate Key Stage Four requirements as well as the core learning elements of the Diploma programme. This Diploma is not aimed at a specific occupation and it is suggested that this is the Diploma most pupils / students in schools will attempt.

Each Diploma will have four levels of study:


For students / pupils aiming for university entrance. Formerly AS and A Level courses.


For pupils in the A to C - GCSE examination grade range.


For pupils in the D to G GCSE examination grade range.


For pupils with special educational needs.

Each of the levels will interlock which means that pupils can progress from one level to another.

Although the learners (pupils) will study the core subject areas, they will have a measure of choice and can select a mixture of subjects and areas of learning outside the core, in the main learning aspect (see diagram above). This means that they can specialise in  areas such as Design and Technology.

Components: The Diploma will be composed of components. Current GCSEs and A levels may supply much of the course material but components will not be qualifications in their own right. However, it has been suggested that Diplomas will be made up of credits, with each credit being equivalent to ten hours of component work.

Credits: If the Diplomas are composed of credits this may lead to a big change in the way Technology subjects are taught at Key Stage 4  and 5. One of the aims of the Diploma is to allow flexibility and choice. It is not clear if pupils can mix credits from different technology subject areas. For instance, a pupil may decide to do credits in Food Technology, Systems and Control, Resistant Materials, Graphic Products and Product Design. This means that the Technology Department of the future must be flexible and be capable of delivering a broad choice of subject areas. Technology staff  must be able to deliver a variety of Technology subject areas rather than specialising in one. At present very few Departments are capable of this flexibility and normally pupils specialise in one area of Technology.

Vocational Learning: The Tomlinson Report stresses the role of vocational learning. Tomlinson suggests that vocational programmes should be developed through direct involvement of employers and Higher Education. This is aimed at ensuring that the workforce requirements of different employers are met and that vocational courses are relevant. The Tomlinson report puts great emphasis on the value of vocational learning and emphasises that this type of learning should take place in suitably equipped institutions.

The Extended Project/Personal Challenge: The report proposes that an extended piece of work will contribute to the Diploma. This project will be a substantial challenge for the pupil/student. W.A.T.T hope that the project will help develop those skills that are central to good Design and Technology and include; planning, research, analytical and communication skills. It is said that the extended project will reflect the pupil's personal preferences so that he/she can select areas of interest. One possible outcome of an extended project could involve designing and manufacturing. On the other hand it could be a written report, a personal performance or even a video. The extended project lends itself well to Design and Technology pupils/students and staff who have great experience of extended projects.

Most Able Students: There has been much argument in the UK regarding the fall in standards of GCSE's and A Level qualifications. Many believe that these qualifications are easier to pass today compared to ten years ago. Accordingly, the most able students are not being stretched. Tomlinson aims to put an end to this argument by the introduction of A+ and A++ grades, to help distinguish between the most able pupils/students and others taking the Diplomas. The W.A.T.T. Research team suggests that the Government should insist that existing higher grades are made more difficult to achieve, rather than introducing more grades and more confusion.

Assessment: The phasing out of external examinations is one proposed feature of the new Diplomas at Entry, Foundation and Intermediate Levels. Teacher led assessment will be the main avenue of assessment, no doubt with a good measure of external assessment and quality control. W.A.T.T. hope that the external assessment and quality control side is not delivered by those responsible for the 'mounds' of paper work that accompanied GNVQs. The introduction of 'chartered assessors' within each school, to ensure good practice, sounds to the W.A.T.T. Research Team as a throw back to the 'bad old days' of GNVQ assesser qualifications. At Advanced Level it is proposed that there should be a balance between external and internal assessment with some examinations.

The Tomlinson Report aims to deliver:



Through high quality programmes and qualifications in school, college or work based learning, ensuring that all pupils of all abilities can make progress.

Challenging work in all aspects of the Diploma. Pupils must be motivated by the work they attempt in all components contributing to the Diploma.




In both teaching and learning. Pupils and the wider community must value programmes of study. Qualifications must demonstrate hard work, intellectual challenge and perseverance. The Diploma must be valued by business and industry, teachers and pupils.

The Diploma and components must meet the needs of individual learners, with pupils exercising individual choice. Pupils should be supported with information, advice and guidance. Pupils should have the choice of pathways and programmes of study.

The Tomlinson Report is not the final story. The DfES produces a White Paper early in June 2005. This will outline the Government proposals in light of the published Tomlinson Report. The White Paper will be reviewed by W.A.T.T. as soon as it is published. W.A.T.T. intend to produce a summary for all those interested in Design and Technology Education in the UK. (White Papers are introduced by the UK Government as discussion documents. They are published to encourage serious political debate, for the general public and politicians in the Chambers of Parliament. They are the first stage leading to a vote in Parliament and a change in the Law)

Foot Note:

John Watkins a member of W.A.T.T. from New Zealand suggests that the system recommended by Tomlinson is very similar to the current New Zealand Education System. "Here in New Zealand we offer a National Certificate of Learning where students are required to build up credits to achieve certificates at the three different levels. As a Technology Department we build up courses from the standards that we feel best fits our particular students. Each standard has a credit value and may be academic or more vocational in form. This system has been in place for three years and was put in place due to the same concerns raised in the Tomlinson report".