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Technical and Vocational Qualifications

Volume 582: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2014

A successful economy needs qualifications that are of a high quality, benefit the young people that take them and are valued by employers. We are linking the whole education system more closely to the world of work: with more relevant, respected qualifications, more emphasis on the development of useful practical and technical skills, and greater employer influence over the design, delivery and assessment of qualifications.

In March we released “Getting the Job Done: The Government’s Reform Plan for Vocational Qualifications”. Today, I am announcing the introduction of two new categories of technical and vocational qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds. We expect new qualifications to be brought forward in each category, and existing qualifications to be categorised where they meet the required level of rigour and responsiveness to employer demand.

In the past employers knew that a young person who held, for example, a City and Guilds bricklaying qualification could be relied upon to construct a wall to a high standard. These qualifications then started to get lost among thousands of others. The introduction of tech levels, and now substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 for 16 to 19-year-olds and technical awards for 14 to 16-year-olds will restore confidence in the technical and vocational qualifications available for young people.

From September 2015, technical awards will sit alongside GCSEs for 14 to 16-year-olds, and mark the final stage of reform at key stage 4. At the same time, substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 will be introduced for students aged 16 to 19. Qualifications in each of these categories will be reported in school and college performance tables from 2017.

Technical awards will inject rigour into practical, technical and more skills-based qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds. Developed in partnership with employers they will provide an opportunity to develop knowledge and practical skills that are essential in our growing economy, without restricting a student’s opportunities for progression at 16. These highly-valued qualifications, equivalent to GCSEs, will give students the opportunity to develop real-life practical skills, at the same time as studying reformed GCSEs in academic subjects.

Substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 provide students aged 16 to 19 with a route into a skilled trade or occupation, where employers recognise entry at this level (most construction trades, care work and hairdressing, for example). They will also provide access to tech levels. All of these qualifications will require public backing from employers, giving students confidence that the qualification they are taking is genuinely valued.

The Department for Education will publish today technical guidance for awarding organisations that sets out the requirements for technical awards and substantial vocational qualifications at level 2, as well as further quality requirements for tech levels and applied general qualifications at level 3.

In addition to the new types of technical and vocational qualifications, I am also announcing the first tech bac trailblazers. These are high performing schools and colleges that will deliver the three components of the technical baccalaureate (tech bac) performance tables measure to talented students from September 2014. The tech bac measure will recognise the achievement of students completing a tech level, level 3 mathematics (including AS level mathematics or the new core maths qualification) and an extended project qualification. It will be reported for the first time in school and college performance tables in January 2017.

The first tech bac trailblazers are:

Archbishop Holgate’s school, a high performing school in York, which will deliver tech level qualifications in art and design, IT and engineering as part of the tech bac trailblazer.

Barnet and Southgate college, one of the largest colleges in north London, where students will study tech levels in engineering, motorsport vehicle technology, IT and construction.

Blackpool Sixth, which will offer tech bac programmes in three key vocational areas: engineering, IT and creative media production.

Blessed George Napier Catholic school and sixth form in Oxfordshire, which will deliver tech level qualifications in travel and tourism and IT as part of the tech bac trailblazer.

Brockenhurst college in Hampshire, which offers a tech level in engineering that is publicly recognised by a number of professional bodies, including the Engineering Council, the Engineers Professors’ Council, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the employer Leibherr.

South Cheshire college, which will offer full tech bac programmes to all students studying tech levels in IT and engineering.

Warwickshire College, which will focus its tech bac trailblazer activities on a tech level qualification in manufacturing engineering.

Further details of the four categories of technical and vocational qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds and the technical baccalaureate measure, which have been the subject of previous announcements, are available on