Since 1951 it has consistently been the top 3% of students - as measured by A-level capped performance - who have had the luxury of learning for its own sake (Ainley, 2006). The destinations post-16 of the remaining 97% were not assiduously recorded until recently but it is fair to assume that they were constrained to ensuring that their learning led them into a recognizable vocational area. The fate of this 97% was undermined by the dissolution of the apprenticeship programme in the 1980s, but has now re-emerged in the shape of specialized Diplomas, and we saw an earlier incarnation in the Vocational Educational qualifications and government led initiatives such as the Youth Opportunity Programmes which have preceded them.
Specialised Diplomas give the UK a long awaited opportunity to consolidate and improve provision for the majority of its 14-19 year olds, too long side lined in the emphasis on gaining level 5 and above in SATS, Grade A* at GCSE and Grade A at GCE A-level.
All young people aged 14-19 were granted a national entitlement to study one of fourteen vocational areas by the Education Act 2006. The White Paper (2005) anticipates that by 2013 40% of KS4 pupils (14-16)