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It's reckless to defund Level 3 qualifications without understanding the full impact on students, says AoC

16 May 2024

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Catherine Sezen, Director of Education Policy at Association of Colleges, said:

“Today's announcement heightens our concerns that elements of these qualification reforms could have a serious and negative impact on the life chances of tens of thousands of young people and even more adults. We once again call for the Department for Education to pause and review their plans to defund Level 3 qualifications until the full impact is clear. Until the new T Levels are fully established, it is reckless to defund qualifications that have been working well for thousands of young people and adults in the hope that the change will be positive. Without understanding the full impact and without a comprehensive impact assessment, ministers are simply risking too much.

“The reforms affect 20% (250,000) of 16 and 17-year-olds on Level 3, and 20% (200,000) of 16 and 17-year-olds studying at Level 2 who’ll find it harder to progress to Level 3 at the age of 18. The reforms also affect the 300,000 adults taking full Level 3 courses who cannot currently take T Levels.

“Colleges are extremely concerned about the high number of students who may not be able to find a course because T Levels are not suitable or accessible for them and the existing qualification is being defunded. Now that more information has been released, it is time for a pause whilst a proper impact assessment of this major multi-year reform of the education currently taken by more than half a million people.

“It’s true that thousands of students are taking T Levels, managing to do the placement required, and going on to succeed. For many of them the T Level is a good programme of study. However, these qualifications are not suited to every student who wants to take a vocational qualification at Level 3 and the 45-day placement is stretching employer capacity. The modest total of 23,500 student enrolments on T Levels needs to be put into the context of 250,000 young people on current vocational technical qualifications. Even with rapid growth, we expect the total number of T Level enrolments to be less than 100,000.

“We know that colleges will knit together brilliant study programmes using the menu of qualifications on the approved DfE lists, but we’re particularly worried about new obstacles in the route for young people to get jobs in health, construction and electrical. We also need more clarity on qualifications in subjects like sport, performing arts, business and agriculture, which are due to be defunded in 2026 but for which there are no details.”