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Level 3 Post-16 Qualifications Review

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 19 October 2023

Today I am announcing an update to phase 2 of the Government’s reforms to post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England—removing funding from technical qualifications that overlap with T-levels. Today we are publishing the final list of technical qualifications that have been assessed to overlap with wave 3 T-levels at:

This is part of our continued work to achieve our aim of a simplified, high-quality qualification offer, which will ultimately see us transition to the new advanced British standard. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the advanced British standard, we are continuing with our qualification reforms, preparing the landscape for the advanced British standard by removing duplicative, low-quality courses that do not deliver the skills employers need.

T-levels will form the backbone of the occupational route within the advanced British standard and our qualifications reforms are removing qualifications that overlap with T-levels. In May we published a provisional list of qualifications that overlapped with wave 3 T-levels. Following the publication of the provisional list, awarding organisations were given the opportunity to appeal their qualifications’ inclusion on the list.

I can now confirm the final list of 85 qualifications, which will have funding approval removed at 16 to 19 because they overlap with the T-levels in business and administration; engineering and manufacturing; and finance and accounting. We will withdraw public funding from these qualifications, for new starts, from August 2025. During the appeals process there were no successful appeals. We have removed seven qualifications from the final list that were included in the provisional list published in May, as they have already had public funding removed through our initial phase of the qualification reforms, which removed qualifications with low or no publicly funded enrolments in England.

We are continuing to reform technical qualifications at level 3 to ensure that all qualifications are of good quality as the current qualifications do not consistently progress young people to related employment. On the final list of 85 qualifications, 30 of the qualifications had no enrolments and a further 23 had fewer than 100 enrolments in the 2020/21 academic year, highlighting the need to streamline the qualifications system.

In the future, all technical qualifications will be based on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IfATE) occupational standards which have been designed by employers and which set out the knowledge, skills, and behaviours that employers need. The advanced British standard will build on this change taking the best of both A-levels and T-levels. Technical subjects within the advanced British standard will be based on the same occupational standards that employers and IfATE have carefully designed and which underpin the T-levels now.

Removing funding from technical qualifications which overlap with T-levels will ensure young people can feel confident that they are studying technical qualifications which will prepare them for jobs in their chosen occupation. The breadth and depth of T-levels gives students a thorough understanding of the sector and the skills needed to work in specific occupations, as well as an industry placement which gives them valuable experience. This summer’s T-level results show students are succeeding in these new, high-quality qualifications, with more than 90% of students achieving a pass and the majority achieving a merit or above. Students have gone on from T-levels to outstanding destinations, including moving direct into employment, undertaking higher apprenticeships or progressing into higher education.

T-levels are being scaled up in a managed rollout, with 18 subjects currently available at over 200 providers across England. We are continuing to build on the success of T-levels and have put in place extra measures to support providers, employers and students. We are providing a 10% uplift in funding to providers delivering T-levels for the 2023-24 academic year, a new £12 million employer support fund and extra funding for providers to provide careers guidance on T-levels.

We are supporting more learners to access T-levels through the T-level foundation year. This is a high quality, holistic study programme for learners who would benefit from the additional study time and preparation that it will give them before they start their T-level. Learners on the programme develop a broad range of knowledge, skills and behaviours to prepare them for T-levels. This includes the national technical content developed for the programme, through which learners gain industry-relevant technical knowledge and practical skills aligned to T-levels, as well as gaining valuable work experience and preparation for the workplace, English, maths and digital skills, developing their study skills and wider personal development. In total, close to 9,800 students have enrolled on the programme in the first three years, since 2020, and provisional estimates show that c.49% of the first cohort subsequently progressed onto level 3 or higher outcomes.

As I have said, ahead of the implementation of the advanced British standard, our qualification reforms will continue, removing duplicative, low-quality courses, that do not deliver the skills employers need. As of August 2022, we had removed 5,500 qualifications with low or no enrolments. Despite this, we still have confusing and duplicative landscape of at least 7,000 available qualifications. We are actively working to address that through our current reform programme. The removal of public funding from qualifications that overlap with T-levels at 16 to 19 forms a small part of our wider technical qualification reform programme. We have started our new integrated funding approval process, awarding organisations can develop and submit new technical qualifications for funding, which are based on occupational standards approved by IfATE, as long as the new technical qualifications do not overlap with T-levels. The first of these approved qualifications will be available for first teach from 2025, we will then remove funding from all other qualifications that have not been submitted through our new integrated funding approval process. Linking all technical qualifications to employer-led standards will ensure students develop the skills needed by employers and will have a clear pathway into skilled work leading to good outcomes.

As we work towards introducing the advanced British standard, this update helps take us one step closer to having a simple suite of subjects—all of which are high-quality and clear in their purpose. Ultimately, this will ensure that all remaining qualifications for 16 to 19 year-olds work for those students that take them and are easy to understand for students, parents and employers.

Awarding organisations with qualifications on the final wave 3 T-level overlap list have been notified, as have the Federation of Awarding Bodies and Joint Council for Qualifications.