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A Strategy for 14-19 Qualifications

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

I am today publishing a consultation document, “Promoting Achievement, Valuing Success: A Strategy for 14-19 Qualifications”. Building on the aim that we set out in the Children’s Plan for a world-class education system for all 14-19 year olds, this strategy will help to ensure that we can unlock the talent of every young person—enabling all teenagers to pursue qualifications that are understood and valued and allow them to achieve and succeed. This strategy builds on the advice we have received from a group of independent experts from all parts of the education sector and employers.

The current qualification system is overly complex—it is often difficult for young people and their advisers to understand which will best meet their needs and support their aspirations. Not every qualification option has clear progression routes to further study or to skilled employment. Not all the qualifications currently on offer enable young people to develop all the skills and knowledge they need, and that employers and universities want. We want more comprehensive and coherent qualifications for young people, supporting better progression through a set of clear, well-valued qualification choices.

Building on the vision set out in the 2005 White Paper, “14-19 Education and Skills”, there will be four key national qualification routes: GCSEs and A levels; Diplomas; Apprenticeships; and the Foundation Learning Tier. These will offer a range of choices from general education to job-specific learning, and will support young people of all abilities throughout the country. This clear new offer will build on the best of existing provision, but will also secure a coherent system of 14-19 education that is truly fit for the future, with the flexibility to meet the needs and aspirations of each and every young person. We have said that we will conduct a first full review in 2013 to consider how diplomas, GCSEs and A levels and any other general qualifications publicly funded for young people at that point, are combining to meet the needs of young people, employers and universities.

These proposals are an essential part of our plans to raise the education and training leaving age to 18, so that all young people have the right skills to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world and can continue learning throughout life.

Some key elements of the strategy are as follows:

We will simplify the system, with a new process to bring in the best of existing qualifications, while building towards the more streamlined offer;

We will establish a step-by-step process through which we can be assured that in simplifying the qualifications available, we are continuing to meet the full range of learner needs. This will ensure that we can bring in the best of what currently exists, while managing a process of transition to the future simplified system;

This will include the development of a set of criteria against which we will assess whether qualifications will be approved for use for young people in the future;

The appointment of an expert body of external advisers—the Joint Advisory Committee on Qualifications Approval—to advise on how these principles should be applied;

As we are developing new qualification options, we will make sure they are made as comprehensive as possible, to better meet the needs of all young people through:

The extended diploma, which will recognise a wider range of achievement within the diploma framework;

Plans to make the Extended Project an option for all young people who study A Levels;

An extension of the diploma entitlement from the first 14 to all 17 diplomas post-16 from 2013.

We are confident that these proposals will go a long way towards our aim of attracting more young people to learning, transforming standards in the basics and in the wider skills for employability, and enabling all young people to be taking qualifications that have a real standing with employers and the public at large, establishing a strong progression route to further and higher education.

The formal consultation process will allow us to take the views of all those interested in these proposals, and to ensure that we are moving in a direction which will make our qualifications system more robust and responsive to the needs of all.

I am placing in the Library copies of the consultation document. The consultation period runs from Monday 31 March to Monday 23 June.