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Technical Education Reform

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2019

Today, I am pleased to launch the first stage consultation on the post-16 review of qualifications at level 3 and below in England.

This review, alongside the development of T-levels, is central to building a world class technical education system. Our ambition is to develop a qualifications system for all, in which every student benefits from high quality study that helps them realise their talents and achieve their career ambitions. It is vital to addressing our country’s productivity and skills gaps and achieving the international competitiveness on which our future prosperity depends.

The current qualifications system at level 3 and below is complex, with around 12,000 qualifications. Some of the qualifications are well recognised and valued, but as the Wolf and Sainsbury reviews identified, too many are poorly understood and poor quality, weakening their currency and value for individuals, employers and the economy as whole.

The review aims to simplify the landscape, ensuring that every single qualification is necessary and has a distinct purpose, is high quality and supports progression to positive outcomes. At level 3, we want A-Levels and T-Levels to be the qualifications of choice for students choosing classroom-based study, and for more students to study and achieve at level 3. Subject to the review and the outcomes of our consultation, we expect that where a qualification at level 3 overlaps with a T-Level or A-Level, it would not, in future, be approved for funding for 16 to 19-year olds.

At level 2 and below, qualifications should enable progression to a higher level of study for those that are able to do so; and for those who are not, there should be high quality qualifications that lead to a good range of employment options and opportunities to study at a later stage.

To drive up quality and ensure fairness in the system at an early stage, in August 2020 we will withdraw approval for funding for older qualifications, where there are newer, more robust versions that have been re-developed to meet performance table rules.

We recognise that qualifications in scope of this review are taken by a range of learners, including adults and those with additional needs, such as special educational needs and disabilities. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. We want to be confident that the qualifications available work for all students, irrespective of their specific needs.

It is important that we take the time to get these changes right and listen carefully to the sector’s views. This is why we are consulting in two stages. We are looking first at the principles that should guide the review before moving on in the second stage consultation to detailed proposals for change, which we will bring forward later in the year. I strongly encourage everyone with an interest to contribute to the debate, so that we can work together to build the world class technical education system that our students deserve and that our country needs.