Thursday 19 October 2023
Level 3 Post-16 Qualifications Review
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: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wave-3-t-levels-overlapping-qualifications.
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.
Schools and Colleges Update
This update follows from my oral and written statements to the House in September.
An updated list of schools and colleges with confirmed cases of RAAC in England has been published today. As of 16 October, there are 214 education settings with confirmed RAAC in some of their buildings. Thanks to the hard work of school and college leaders, 202 settings (94%) are providing full time face-to-face education for all pupils. 12 settings have hybrid arrangements in place. This may involve some remote learning on some days as not all pupils can currently receive full-time face-to-face education. There are no education settings with confirmed RAAC where all pupils are in full-time remote learning.
Last year we issued a questionnaire asking responsible bodies for schools and colleges to identify whether they suspected they had RAAC. Responsible bodies have, as of today, submitted responses to the questionnaire for 99.9% of schools and colleges with blocks built in the target era. We are in contact with responsible bodies and education settings to resolve the 17 remaining responses to the questionnaire and ensure any required surveys of potential RAAC cases are carried out imminently by one of eight professional survey firms. The vast majority of schools surveyed to date have been found to have no RAAC.
Every school or college with confirmed RAAC is assigned dedicated support from our team of 80 case- workers. Project delivery teams are on site to support schools and colleges to implement mitigation plans. They will work with them to put in place a bespoke plan that supports face-to-face education for all pupils as soon as possible based on their circumstances. Mitigation plans include other spaces on the school site, or in nearby schools or elsewhere in the local area, until building works are carried out or temporary buildings are installed.
The Government are funding the emergency work needed to mitigate the presence of RAAC, including installing alternative classroom space where necessary. All reasonable requests for additional help with revenue costs, like transport to locations or temporarily renting a local hall, are being approved. The Government are funding longer term refurbishment or rebuilding projects to address the presence of RAAC in schools. Schools and colleges will either be offered capital grants to fund refurbishment work to permanently remove RAAC, or rebuilding projects where these are needed, including through the school rebuilding programme. We are working closely with responsible bodies to assess what the right solution is for each case.
I want to reassure pupils, parents and staff that this Government are doing whatever it takes to support our schools and colleges in responding to RAAC and minimise disruption to education.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
European Political Community: Granada Meeting
On Thursday 5 October, the Prime Minister attended the European Political Community summit in Granada, Spain. Leaders from across the continent gathered for the third time to discuss pan-European issues and explore how better to work together to respond to common challenges. The Prime Minister’s attendance demonstrated UK leadership on key European issues, notably combating illegal migration, supporting Ukraine through the winter period, and regulating artificial intelligence responsibly.
The Prime Minister advanced our international co-operation with key partners in the fight against illegal migration. The Prime Minister agreed new bilateral initiatives with Serbia and Bulgaria to increase intelligence sharing and operational co-operation in the fight against organised immigration crime. The Prime Minister co-chaired, with Italy, a meeting in the margins of the summit on migration and organised immigration crime, attended by the leaders of Albania, France, the Netherlands and the President of the European Commission. The group agreed on eight principles to guide our approach to these challenges at the pan-European level. The principles have been published on gov.uk.
To demonstrate our continued solidarity with Ukraine, the Prime Minister met President Zelenskyy and announced a UK support package including: £34 million for the UN and charities providing shelter and clothing; £10 million for household electricity; and the UK’s fourth loan guarantee of $500 million, to ensure that the Government of Ukraine can provide life-saving winter support payments.
The Prime Minister participated in a roundtable discussion on artificial intelligence, chaired by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden and Prime Minister Rama of Albania. Ahead of the UK AI Safety summit in November 2023, the PM encouraged collaboration across Governments towards a responsible regulatory approach that promotes innovation while mitigating risks.
The EPC provides an important opportunity for leader-level bilateral discussions: in addition to his meeting with President Zelenskyy, the Prime Minister held bilateral meetings with German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. With the Taoiseach, he took stock of the implementation of the Windsor framework. Short meetings with Serbian and Kosovan counterparts provided an opportunity for the Prime Minister to convey strong messages with regard to ongoing tensions in the western Balkans. He also met a range of leaders including those from Spain, France, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Italy, Bulgaria and Czech Republic.
Health and Social Care
Thirlwall Inquiry Update
I am today announcing the terms of reference for the Thirlwall inquiry into the wider circumstances around what happened at the Countess of Chester Hospital, following the convictions of Lucy Letby.
When deciding to launch a statutory inquiry at the request of the families, I was clear that they must be involved in shaping its scope. I am pleased that Lady Justice Thirlwall and her team have worked closely with the families and key stakeholders to ensure that the inquiry will get them the answers that they need and that lessons are learned from these horrific events.
The inquiry will investigate three broad areas:
1. The experiences of the parents of the babies named in the indictment.
2. The conduct of clinical and non-clinical staff and management, as well as governance and escalation processes in relation to concerns being raised about Lucy Letby and whether these structures contributed to the failure to protect babies from her.
3. The effectiveness of governance, external scrutiny and professional regulation in keeping babies in hospital safe, including consideration of NHS culture.
The terms of reference have today been published on gov.uk. I have deposited copies of the terms of reference in the Libraries of both Houses.
The inquiry’s work will now be a matter for the judge. Lady Justice Thirlwall has indicated that she does not currently intend to appoint a panel to support her in this work, though the appointment of an assessor will be kept under review. I will ensure that the inquiry has the resources it needs to carry out this important work and to continue to support the families.
I know Lady Justice Thirlwall and her team will undertake the inquiry thoroughly and as swiftly as possible.
Pregnancy Loss Review Recommendations: Implementation
I wish to inform the House of our progress in implementing the recommendations of the pregnancy loss review following Baby Loss Awareness Week last week.
The sensitive handling and storage of pregnancy loss remains—We have begun a review of the guidance on the sensitive handling of pregnancy remains and the Human Tissue Authority will make any necessary updates by March 2024. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to develop specifications for a bespoke receptacle to ensure foetal remains can be collected and stored with dignity by February 2024. Scoping work is also under way to map the provision of cold storage facilities to avoid needing to temporarily store pregnancy remains at home.
Recurrent miscarriage—The Tommy’s Miscarriage Centre at Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital will be launching a three-month pilot to assess the effectiveness of a graded model of sporadic or recurrent miscarriage that brings forward support to before a third miscarriage. The results of the pilot will be considered in due course.
Bereavement care—NHS England will commence a compliance survey of the estates, including early pregnancy facilities, starting by spring 2024. NHS England will also review the “Health Building Note” for maternity care facilities to update best practice guidance on the design of new and existing facilities, including access to appropriate facilities for women and families who suffer bereavement at any stage of pregnancy.
Education, training, and information—The Department of Health and Social Care is working with stakeholders to develop new information resources, based on best practice examples, for primary and secondary healthcare settings, including a poster on “what to do if you have pain or bleeding during pregnancy”.
Early Pregnancy Assessment Units—Work with commissioners of NHS 111, ambulance services and trusts will look at the direct booking of appointments with early pregnancy assessment units so that patients with complications can be sent direct. A review of the current directory of services, which allows women to find their closest service, will ensure that local information is kept up to date.
Baby loss certificates—In July, I announced that we would be rolling out the baby loss certificate service in October. Following testing phases with over 1,000 families who have experienced pregnancy loss, I have commissioned an enhanced service specification to improve the application process and ensure the proper protection of this sensitive service, including strengthening the method of second parent verification. We are working at pace to put in place additional verification and the certificates will be available as soon as possible.
In addition to the progress being made, we have established a pregnancy loss ministerial oversight group, and the first meeting will take place this month to ensure actions are on track to progress work on the priority recommendations.
I will continue to update on our work, including on the remaining medium and long-term recommendations, via written ministerial statements.