DFE post-16 Level 3 and below vocational qualifications review

26 March 2019

On Tuesday 19 March the Department for Education (DfE) announced a review of post-16 vocational qualifications at level 3 and below in England (excluding T levels, A levels and GCSEs).  This consultation is part of a two-stage process with stage 1 ending on 10 June 2019 and stage 2 ending in December 2019.

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There will not be a review of Technical Awards pre-16. The DfE’s own research into KS4 has identified the value of these qualifications for learner engagement and reducing absences and exclusions. This means you can continue to plan with confidence for those BTEC Tech Awards and BTEC First Awards on performance tables.

What the post-16 review could mean for you

The current proposals put forward by the DfE are:

  • to withdraw approval for funding from 1 August 2020 for new starts on qualifications that the DfE deems meet its criteria for pre-existing qualifications. Students already enrolled/registered on these courses will be funded through to completion.

The DfE is currently in discussion with all awarding organisations to identify which qualifications are considered pre-existing qualifications. We will advise centres as soon as the final list is confirmed and communicate final registration and top up dates where appropriate.

  • To withdraw approval for funding for new starts on qualifications with no take-up from August 2021

  • To withdraw approval for funding for new starts on qualifications with low take-up from August 2021

  • From September 2023 onwards, to remove approval for funding from Applied General and Tech Level qualifications, as determined by the review, where the qualifications overlap with A Levels or T Levels and do not meet new defined characteristics.

  • To review current post-16 Entry Level, Level 1, Level 2 and other Level 3  qualifications. The DfE will agree the principles on which these will be made eligible for funding in the future, based on the results of this consultation. The DfE will consult on their proposals for changes to funding for post-16 Level 2 and below Level 2 qualifications, late in 2019. There is no indication in the consultation that qualification funding will be withdrawn before August 2023, unless a qualification has low uptake.

  • To gather views and evidence about the general principles that should apply to qualifications that 19+ students use, reflecting the differing circumstances of adult learners.

What can you do in response?

  • Respond to the consultation: We strongly encourage you to respond to the Government’s consultation. The consultation closes on 10 June 2019.

  • Get in touch: We would like to hear your thoughts on the importance of maintaining funding for BTEC Level 3 Nationals and other aspects of the consultation. You can send us your views, questions and comments by completing this form.

We are keen to ensure students are able to access the pathways at 16-19 that support their learning and career ambitions, and would like to work with you and stakeholders to ensure that any changes are in their interests.

Frequently-asked questions

Yes, the consultation covers all awarding organisations.

Yes. Students can register for a two year course this September 2019 and complete by summer 2021.

Under the current proposals this would not apply to students topping up to a larger size in September 2020 and so it is safest to register on the larger sizes. We are liaising with DfE to ensure the implications of this are clear. We would encourage you to respond to the consultation on this point.

It is anticipated that for some of the suite the funding may be removed as of 1 August 2020. We will advise you as soon as the list of qualifications has been confirmed.

Pearson will be running forums where centres can discuss the potential impacts of the proposed reforms.

The current timeframe is for reforms to be implemented in September 2023. We will be strongly advocating for the existence of a third route, alongside A levels, and T levels, that is career-focused, as will many other stakeholders.

We will continue to make the case for keeping RQF BTEC Level 3 Nationals, and we will communicate with all our customers as soon as we have the outcomes of the review. We would encourage you to respond to the consultation as well.

BTEC Tech Awards and BTEC First Awards on performance tables are not included in this review. The DfE’s own research has identified the value of these qualifications. The curriculum and assessments at KS4 will be monitored via Ofsted, Ofqual and the performance measures process.

Post-16 Level 2 qualifications are included in this review.  However, no immediate changes will be made to post-16 Level 2 qualifications eligible for funding. The DfE will agree the principles on which these will be made eligible for funding in the future, based on the results of this consultation. The DfE will consult on its firm proposals for changes to funding for Level 2 qualifications, late in 2019.  There is no indication in the consultation that qualification funding will be withdrawn before August 2023, unless a qualification has low uptake.

Yes, you can. No immediate changes will be made to Entry Level and Level 1 qualifications eligible for funding. However, these qualifications are included in this review. The DfE will agree the principles on which these will be made eligible for funding in the future based on the results of this consultation. The DfE will consult on its firm proposals for changes to funding for below Level 2 qualifications, late in 2019. In the consultation there is no indication that qualification funding will be withdrawn before August 2023, unless a qualification has low uptake.

The DfE is proposing to remove funding for some pre-existing Level 3 BTEC Nationals where RQF qualifications are available in the same sectors as existing QCF qualifications. This could mean a small number of 19-23 entitlement qualifications, and 19+ loan qualifications, would no longer be eligible for funding after August 2020. Other qualifications eligible for adult funding will not be affected and will continue to be made available under the current funding rules.

The consultation will gather views and evidence about the general principles that should apply to 19+ qualifications. The DfE acknowledges that A levels and T Levels might not be the right choice for adult learners and will consider how the principles should apply to adults, reflecting their differing circumstances. We expect a broad range of qualifications will continue to be made available to adults beyond September 2023.

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