DfE review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England

07 Jun 2019

Students need to have clear information about the nature, purpose, outcome and potential progression of any qualification they are taking. However, an assumption that A levels lead only to academic subjects at university and T levels only to higher technical study misunderstands the broad approach that many universities, especially modern universities, take when assessing the potential of applicants. Unnecessary and early specialisation could actually be to the detriment of students, and persuade them from progressing to the next stage of education. Applied general qualifications allow students to pursue a vocational approach that is broader than T levels, but still designed to provides a career-focused education in an area of the students’ choosing. Being able to mix these qualifications with A levels, which is an increasingly popular option, gives a student a larger range of choice about future progression, as well as a broader educational experience. BTEC courses and other applied generals are also viewed favourably by students from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds. Losing these as options could harm their progression to further study. Revising the level 3 offer and introducing a new binary approach without considering necessary revisions (in curriculum spread, performance measures, assessment approaches) is unlikely to be successful. The current approach in level 3 – both of allowing students to select one educational track or mix academic and technical/vocational education and of ensuring that whichever approach taken does not unnecessarily restrict future choice – has increased the number of people to move into level 3 qualifications. A binary approach may see the system fall back to one where only those pursuing academic subjects move into levels 3, 4 and beyond.

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