DfE consultation on the review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England

08 Feb 2021

The proposals to reduce and/or remove funding from most qualifications at level 3, aside from A levels and T Levels, needs extremely careful consideration in light of its potentially damaging impact on choice and progression, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and adult learners. There is a significant risk  that this will result in a shift to a stark binary divide for students at level 3 (most at aged 16) between academic qualifications and those technical qualifications that are very narrowly focused on a particular vocational area.

There is certainly a value in some rationalisation of the large number of qualifications at level 3, as a proliferation of too many programmes can cause a “choice paralysis” for students. It is also important to ensure that all qualifications offered, at whatever level, are credible and carry reputational value with stakeholders. However, the introduction of essentially a basic choice between T Levels and A levels will narrow the curriculum for young people and adult learners at a time when what is required for the world of work changes rapidly, with career success founded as much on individuals possessing particular personal qualities and transferable skills (resilience, independence, problem-solving) than specific technical competences.

Applied generals, or a combination of these applied general qualifications with general qualifications at level 3, should continue to be a viable option for learners entering Key Stage 5 or later in life as adult learners. Once the full suite of T Levels have bedded down - and hopefully demonstrated diverse progression routes for their learners in the mid-2020s - the government could conduct a further review of level 3 qualifications at that point to determine any requirement for a further rationalisation of qualifications. To take the step of eliminating applied generals at this stage would be precipitous and highly risky for the prospects of future learners

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