Skip to main content

Review of post-16 qualifications at Level 3 and below in England

12 June 2019

AoC supports the aspiration of building a clear, coherent and high quality qualification system and needs to build on the system we have now, much of which works well. Any proposals for reform should clearly serve the interest of students, society and the economy and address problems or gaps with what we have now. David Hughes said: “ I would urge DfE to ensure that any proposals for change are built around consensus, are carefully paced and take account of the capacity in the system to deliver. We know that large parts of our qualifications system work well for students and employers, so we must ensure that those strengths are built upon; this is not a failed system which needs wholescale reform. We also know that improvements can be made and should be implemented, with support from employers, colleges and students. We have set out, with our members, 10 key principles which attracted substantial support during the consultation period and which can help government approach the next phase of the review. Two key issues emerged through the review, The first is that a ‘hard binary’ offer at level 3 based only on A Levels or T Levels would not meet the needs of all of the 60% of students in the age cohort who leave school ready for level 3 study. The second is that there needs to be more investment in the 40% of students who are not yet ready for level 3 study at 16 and are the furthest away from progression to level 3 or into good employment. Therefore, programmes at Level 2 and below need to be designed to engage and motivate students and prepare them for progression and/or employment. Finally, we would urge caution against basing major reforms on evidence which relates to new qualifications, such as T Levels, before they are well-established.” AoC’s 10 principles: Any change should be in the interests of students, society and the economy and lead to a better offer. The change process should build consensus, be carefully paced and ensure that the sector has the necessary capacity. All qualifications should have a clear purpose, focus on progression with clear lines of sight to employment and/or further study, be of appropriate size and use appropriate assessment methods. The success of a qualification should be judged in terms of improvement in the progression opportunities, skills, knowledge and confidence of students who achieve it. Qualifications should only be withdrawn when a clear replacement is available which is demonstrably more effective in preparing for progression, meeting industry needs and promoting success, inclusion and social mobility. The Level 3 offer should be designed to meet the needs of the full range of learners at this level, whether young people or adults, full time or part time and on academic, technical or apprenticeship routes. The technical route should include qualifications other than T Levels, e.g. in areas such as Sport, Public Service, Performing Arts, Travel and Tourism and be open to students of all ages. Where T Levels are established in a sector or occupation, they should aim to be the full-time technical route of choice for that sector. The technical route, like the academic route, should allow for shorter qualifications which can be combined or offered with other qualifications and whose content could overlap with T Levels. Technical qualifications at Level 2 and below should be of high quality and help prepare students for progression and/or employment. High quality Personal and Social Development qualifications should be available for students at all levels and there should be a funded entitlement to a strong common core of Personal and Social Development for all 16 to 18-year-olds. Full response available here.