The government has confirmed that it will scrap thousands of level 2 and below qualifications, but the timeline for defunding the courses has been delayed by a year.
Proposals, described by sector leaders as “devastating”, were set out by ministers earlier this year to streamline the level 2 post-16 qualifications market after officials claimed it had become too confusing for employers and students to navigate.
The Department for Education has today published its consultation response and confirmed that it will proceed with proposals to axe almost 3,500 existing courses from entry level to level 2.
However, plans to defund those qualifications will not get underway in 2024 as first planned, they will begin from 2025 and be carried out in a phased way to 2027.
The delay follows serious concerns, including from exams regulator Ofqual, that the timeline for implementation of the proposals overlapped with significant changes to level 3 qualifications and could “overwhelm” educators.
But officials have ignored Ofqual’s other concern that the DfE’s plans risk adding further confusion to the level 2 qualifications space.
Under the plans, the surviving qualifications would be placed into 17 new “groups” – eight at level 2; five at level 1; and four at entry level.
Ofqual warned that “there is a risk that the large number of proposed groupings are not sufficiently clear or straightforward for students and others to differentiate between”.
But the DfE confirmed today that it will continue with plans to form all 17 new groups.
‘Only qualifications that meet a high-quality bar will be approved for public funding’
Some minor changes have been made following the consultation, however.
The DfE said it would “allow greater flexibility”, for example by allowing colleges and training providers to offer level 2 qualifications leading to employment to 16- to 19-year-olds in less than two years, depending on the “size of the reformed qualification and how it fits alongside the other essential elements of the study programme”.
And at entry levels 1 and 2, the DfE will “fund ‘vocational taster’ qualifications (that provide students with an opportunity to explore industries and occupations), giving an additional option to those studying at the lowest levels”.
Skills minister Andrea Jenkyns said: “Simplifying and strengthening the qualifications system at level 2 and below will make sure all learners, no matter their background, have access to a clearer choice of the high-quality options available, so they can be confident that whatever they choose will set them on a path to success.
“Only qualifications that are necessary, meet a high-quality bar and are proven to lead to good outcomes will be approved for public funding, ensuring better value for money for the taxpayer.”