DfE seeks views on ‘undervalued’ level 2 and below quals market

The Department for Education has launched a call for evidence to find out what is “working well” with qualifications at level 2 and below.

It is part of the government’s review that seeks to simplify England’s “confusing” vocational and technical qualifications landscape by removing funding for those qualifications that compete with T Levels and A-levels.

The DfE says there are around 8,000 level 2 and below qualifications across a wide range of subject sector areas, but “many have low or no demand” while others “do not have clear progression routes to further education or employment”.

New analysis published by the department today found that 60 per cent of 16 year olds who study a classroom-based level 2 course do not move on to study at level 3 the following year. It also highlighted that 37 per cent of students who leave education with a level 2 qualification find it harder to get a job, compared to 14 per cent of students who leave with a level 3 qualification.

While detailed proposals on how to improve this system will not be put forward until next year, today’s call for evidence does outline some early “solutions” that the department has in mind.

These include removing public funding from level 2 ICT functional skills qualifications and level 2 IT for User qualifications, following the launch of essential digital skills reforms at level 1.

For 16 to 19 year olds at level 2, the DfE also proposes to develop a new “transition programme” designed to support progression to level 3. This would be similar to the tailored preparatory T Levels transition programme that launched this year.

Another key goal of the department is to “improve outcomes for all students who are using classroom-based level 2 study to enter into employment”. They believe potential solutions might include “being more prescriptive about the pathways that lead to employment and aligning classroom-based study with employer-led standards” that are developed by employers and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and form the basis of apprenticeships and T Levels.

The DfE states it also wants to “streamline” qualifications at level 1 and entry level, and asks training providers to define “good outcomes” for students at these levels to “help us determine the programmes they need” to keep.

Views are also being sought on how English as a second or foreign language (ESOL) qualifications can be “better targeted towards progression and employment”.

In her foreword of today’s call for evidence, skills minister Gillian Keegan said that level 2 and below classroom-based study is a “key part of our further education landscape that is too often undervalued and its importance should not be ignored”.

However, “they are not allowing the diverse range of students they serve, including some of the most vulnerable or those with special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities,  to fulfil their potential”. 

She adds that the government’s ambition for level 2 and below study is “high” and “we want to give students and employers the confidence that every programme or qualification at level 2 and below is high quality”.

The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2021.