An overview of the Creative and Media Diploma

The new 14-19 Diplomas have been hitting the headlines ever since they were announced but, with so much information in so many different locations, it can be difficult to understand exactly what they entail. The Creative and Media Diploma is now available for study, so we have looked at a range of sources to bring you an overview of the programme and explain exactly how it works.

What is it?

The Creative and Media Diploma, aimed at students aged 14-19, is a new qualification that combines vocational and academic study. It aims to help students achieve their goals by providing them with the essential skills needed to succeed in the creative industries.

There are varying levels available: the Foundation and Higher Diplomas (usually studied in either Year 10 or Year 12), and the Advanced Diploma (Year 12 and above). A Progression Diploma is also available for those who choose not to study the full Advanced Diploma.

What makes it different?

Instead of being trained simply through book-learning and repetition, students are encouraged to learn by doing. Work is both written and practical, and instruction is provided by both industry professionals and teachers. The subjects studied are specific to the creative industries and core subjects (English, Maths etc) are also maintained.

How does it work?

The course comprises of three elements:

  • Principal Learning: Compulsory – Learning information and skills specific to the industry. For assessment, this is divided into the categories of Scene, Performance, Artefact, Record, Campaign, Festival and Project Report. A variety of skills are studied in order to cover each discipline.
  • Generic Learning: Compulsory – Developing functional skills in English, Maths and ICT; personal, learning and thinking skills; work experience; and a project to show the knowledge acquired.
  • Additional & Specialist Learning: Optional units with the opportunity to study a specific topic in more detail, or take on complementary learning. This is in the form of new and pre-existing qualifications (GCSEs, A Levels, BTECs etc.)

Principal Learning is delivered through four themes:

  • Creativity in context – Building an awareness of how external factors affect creativity
  • Thinking and working creatively – Strengthening creative problem solving and evaluating skills, useful both during and after the course.
  • Creative businesses and enterprise – Equipping the student with the necessary skills to succeed, with corporate understanding of the business.
  • The three Ps: Principles, Processes and Practice – Teaching practical, hands-on techniques at the heart of the creative industries.

Generic Learning concentrates on the traditional skills of maths, English and ICT; these core subjects are maintained to ensure that students leave school with the basic knowledge needed in whatever career they pursue. Personal, learning and thinking skills covered include team work, self-management and independent enquiry, which are similarly essential. This aspect of Generic Learning is integrated with Principle Learning.

It also incorporates at least ten days work experience in an industry that interests them (not necessarily the creative industry), building on the already prevalent provision of pre-16 work experience. Students gain experience of practical things that may not be touched upon in a school or college environment, for example the ability to work on multiple platforms.

One of the biggest challenges of the course is a compulsory project engineered and produced by the student. This takes the form of a standalone qualification and allows creative freedom with total responsibility resting with the student. Worth half an A level, this showcases the knowledge gained during the Creative and Media Diploma and promotes independent organisation and learning. It is a free-standing qualification, consisting of a single unit, and contributes to the overall Diploma grade.

What does it teach?

The C&M Diploma teaches a number of technical skills, including music, drama, 2D and 3D visual art, animation, photo imaging, graphic and product design, interactive media, computer games, textiles, advertising and creative writing. Students are encouraged to explore their interests and select six or more during the course (minimum of four in the Advanced Level), combining skills on specific projects. For example, students at Leasowes Business and Enterprise College in Dudley were put to work generating a marketing campaign for a hypothetical perfume of their own imaginings, inspired by a bottle from a local glass blower. By combining advertising with graphic design, they created a vast range of promotional material using technology that will be essential if they go on to work in either field.

From 2009, publishing and printing will also be available as topics for study.

Are traditional courses more valid?

The Creative and Media Diploma can be broken down into traditional qualification terms. The Foundation Diploma is the equivalent of four or five GCSEs, the Higher being five or six; the Advanced Diploma is worth three A levels and the Progression Diploma two A levels. Students also have the option of studying for further qualifications alongside it. The average number of GCSEs studied for is ten, and three for A Level, so students are still achieving high standards, but with a different name on the qualification.

However, there is uncertainty as to how many universities accept the Diploma. Many (such as Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge) have agreed to consider diploma holders, taking into account their equivalences. However, no Diplomas have yet been completed and only various elements have been tested, so it is hard to say whether or not the qualification of the Diploma will satisfy university standards.

What’s the catch?

Being such a new qualification means that it’s not yet available in every school and college in the country. Individual components of the Diploma have been tested nationwide, but it is untested as a whole. If it meets government expectation, the Diploma should prove successful, but this is all speculation at this point. There has been some doubt within the teaching profession that students of this qualification will benefit from specified learning, and suggestions that traditional learning would be more beneficial in the long term.

Why is ICT important to the Diploma?

In a course that teaches such a wide range of technical skills, ICT is invaluable. Technology progresses incredibly quickly and, in order to teach to a relevant and appropriate standard, schools and colleges must be up to date with the latest industry methods. For example, the BRIT (British Industry Trust) School, the country’s only free Performing Arts and Technology school, invested in professional video editing suites and with them a SAN system; this gave its BTEC students access to industry-standard equipment that they may encounter in their later careers. For hands-on learning in techniques such as animation, broadcasting and visual art, it is essential to provide access to suitable products.

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