But other qualifications, including BTECs, will continue to play an important role alongside T Levels and A levels, writes Alex Burghart
The skills and post-16 education act becoming law last month was a watershed moment in bringing our skills system into the future.
From our clear-eyed analysis of what works here and abroad, we found a key ingredient of success: employers’ voices being heard throughout the system, especially when setting the standards for qualifications and when offering courses.
Through our changes, the qualifications on offer will meet the needs of employers and support more people into higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs.
This process had already started five years ago when, in 2017, we reformed the apprenticeship system so that each of the 640 standards available reflect the needs of employers – helping employers while providing apprentices with assurances that they are learning skills that will allow them to compete in the labour market.
Since then, we have introduced new world-class technical qualifications at 16 to 19: T Levels. Equivalent to A levels, they have been designed with employers to meet the needs of employers – they give students the confidence that the skills that they are studying are those that employers are after.
The rigour of T Levels, combined with the meaningful industry placement of at least 45 days in a genuine workplace, will equip more young people with the skills, knowledge and experience to access skilled employment or further technical study.
I want every student to have confidence that every qualification on offer is high quality, and to be able easily to understand what skills and knowledge that qualification will provide and where it will take them.
That is why the benefits stemming from these essential reforms will only be realised if we also address the complexities and variable quality of the broader qualifications system.
As when we have previously introduced new qualifications – for example when GCSEs replaced O levels, or when we introduced reformed A levels last decade – the qualifications which T Levels are replacing will be retired, gradually, as each new T Level comes on stream.
I want every student to have confidence that every qualification on offer is high quality
That means funding will be removed from qualifications that overlap with T Levels for learners aged 16-19. This will make the qualifications system less confusing and ensure that young people studying technical qualifications are studying for the most up-to-date, relevant award that employers value.
A provisional list of 160 level 3 qualifications that overlap with wave 1 and 2 T Levels was published on Wednesday, representing a small proportion of more than 2,000 qualifications at this level.
Awarding organisations have until July 8 to appeal a qualification’s inclusion on the list, and we will announce the final list in the autumn to give providers two years to adjust.
As the post-16 qualifications review continues, we will assess the quality of qualifications that we continue to fund alongside A levels and T Levels.
I know that other qualifications, including BTECs and similar qualifications, will continue to play an important role alongside T Levels and A levels in future – and we will continue to fund these qualifications where they are high quality and where there is a clear need for them.
Taken as part of our wider package of reforms, our goal is simple: to ensure that we have qualifications designed with employers that will give students the skills that the economy and society need.