The Department for Education is consulting on plans for a wide-ranging review of qualifications for 16-19 year olds. The plan is that there will be far fewer qualifications at Level 3 and below approved for funding post-16 than at present.
The proposed review will cover qualifications at Entry Level, Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 that are approved for funding in England for students aged 16 and over. It will include Applied General Qualifications (such as Level 3 Cambridge Technicals), Level 2 Cambridge Technicals and many BTECs. The following are excluded from the review: GCSEs, AS Levels, A Levels, Functional Skills in Maths and English, and T levels.
The Department says that for qualifications to survive the review they must be high quality, have a distinct purpose, be truly necessary and support progression to successful outcomes. Even where qualifications meet these criteria, the review will seek to remove funding for those which overlap significantly with A Levels or T Levels.
The consultation about this planned review will be in two phases:
The process of the review itself is unlikely to start until spring 2020. Where the review identifies qualifications that overlap with A Levels or T Levels funding will be withdrawn from September 2023 at the earliest. Even where qualifications are identified as overlapping with T Levels they cannot be de-funded until the equivalent T Level is widely available. De-funding will need to be implemented gradually and with care to avoid gaps in provision.
The DfE may seek to withdraw qualifications with little or no uptake before August 2023.
One decision has already been made - the DfE has announced that it will be withdrawing funding for what it calls ‘pre-existing qualifications’. These are the older versions of BTECs, Cambridge Technicals and other qualifications which were formerly recognised by the DfE as Applied General Qualifications or Tech Levels but which are no longer recognised on college performance measures post 16. Unlike the newer versions, these pre-existing qualifications are entirely internally assessed with no examined components.
The DfE will withdraw funding from 1 August 2020 for new starts on qualifications that it classifies as pre-existing qualifications. (Students already registered before this date will be funded through to completion.) Typically such qualifications will be older versions of vocational qualifications that exist in parallel with newer ones; this will include those Level 3 2012 Cambridge Technicals where there is a 2016 Cambridge Technical equivalent. The DfE is in discussions with awarding organisations to identify which qualifications are ‘pre-existing’. We will communicate the final outcome and advise schools and colleges on their registration options as soon as we are able to do so.
According to Government, students currently have to pick from “13,000 different qualifications” when deciding on a 16-19 course. A review of technical education, headed by Lord Sainsbury, called for a much simpler system in which T Levels would replace many of the existing vocational/technical options. He also expressed a view that the quality and rigour of some existing qualifications was not universally of a high standard.
His proposals, accepted by government, are that:
OCR welcomes the publication of the first stage of the DfE’s consultation and we look forward to seeing the details. We are confident that it will be open and wide ranging, taking full account of widespread views, and will ensure that young people continue to have access to high quality qualifications which will, in many cases, include Applied General Qualifications such as many of our Cambridge Technicals.