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