England’s post-16 qualifications to be streamlined

Sally Weale Education correspondent


The government is planning to streamline post-16 qualifications in England, scrapping funding for what it sees as poor-quality courses that fail to equip young people adequately for further education or employment.

In addition to A-levels and the new T-level vocational qualifications, there are 12,000 post-16 qualifications available, many of which overlap in the same subject areas, causing confusion among students and employers.

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, is to launch a consultation reviewing the post-16 qualification landscape – excluding A-levels and T-levels – looking at applied general qualifications and technical certificates among others to check they are fit for purpose.

Hinds said A-levels, which recently underwent substantial changes, and T-levels, which are due to be rolled out from 2020, were the “gold standard choice” for young people after GCSEs.

“But we also want to make sure that all options available to students are high-quality and give them the skills they need to get a great job, go on to further education or training, and employers can be confident they can access the workforce they need for the future,” he said.

“We can’t legislate for parity of esteem between academic and technical routes post-16. But we can improve the quality of the options out there and by raising quality, more students and parents will trust these routes.”

While A-levels are easily understood, a student who wants to study for an engineering qualification after GCSEs faces more than 200 possible options, with few clues as to which will give them the skills they need to find work.

The Association of Colleges welcomed the announcement. Senior policy manager Catherine Sezen said: “It is crucial that there are study programmes and qualifications which meet the needs of all students as well as those of business and the economy. The review kickstarts this important conversation.”

Matthew Fell, the chief UK policy director of business body the CBI, said: “Young people need clear, high-quality and easy-to-understand options at 16 - whether that’s A-levels, new T-levels, or doing an apprenticeship. Each route is valued by employers, but it can sometimes be difficult to understand the difference between the thousands of qualifications and different grading systems out there.”