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Reforms and policy updates

There have been significant reforms in England’s education system in the past few years and further reform is on the horizon in the form of the Post-16 Skills Plan.

Post-16 Skills Plan

Following the Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education (2016) aka the Sainsbury Review, the Government published its plan to support young people and adults to secure skilled employment and meet the needs of the economy. The Post-16 Skills Plan recommends the following:

- The amalgamation of all current technical qualifications into a common framework of 15 routes. The routes will group occupations together to reflect where there are shared training requirements.
- Introduction of new ‘T-levels’ for which there will just be one qualification approved for each occupation or cluster of occupations.
- The remit of the Institute for Apprenticeships will be expanded to also cover technical education.
- The fifteen routes will also extend beyond Level 3 to higher education and thus eligible for public subsidy through government-backed student loans.

View the Post-16 Skills Plan >

The government is expected to publish the implementation plan for the Post-16 Skills Plan in 2017 which will articulate how the reforms will be carried out and when.

14-19 Reforms

The 2011 Wolf Report, suggested that many of England’s 14-19 year olds did not progress successfully into either secure employment or higher-level education and training.

As a result the Department for Education (DfE) has brought in significant changes to vocational qualifications affecting providers of full-time training for 14-19 year olds in England. These include the introduction of Study Programmes, new qualifications and new performance measures.

What are the changes?

The Department for Education (DfE) has introduced a number of significant changes to vocational qualifications that will affect all providers of full-time 14-19 education in England.

Raising the participation age

The age at which all young people in England are required to continue in education or training has increased – learners will now continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday.

Improving Maths and English skills

Due to concern over numeracy and literacy levels, the Government now expects all post-16 learners to continue developing these skills.

Learners who have not achieved a grade C or above in GCSE Maths and/or English at Key Stage 4 must now continue working towards this during their further education or training. For most 16-18 learners, this is now a formal condition of their entitlement to public funding.

Revised performance and outcome measures

Accountability systems are being reformed to set higher expectations for providers, and to make them fairer, more ambitious and more transparent.

Accountability will be measured through revised performance tables, publishing a wider range of information on attainment and progression.

What are performance tables?

The performance tables are statistical comparison tables, produced annually by the DfE. These tables provide details about the achievements of schools and colleges in England, by looking at the pass rates and grades of their learners.

To do this, the tables use data from certain qualifications, such as GCSEs and A Levels. Not all qualifications are used for the tables, only those which the DfE has approved. Each year, the DfE publishes a list of qualifications which meet the quality needed for approval.

> Download our guide to performance tables

New qualifications

Performance tables will only measure DfE-approved qualifications. The new qualifications include:

  • Key Stage 4 (14-16) Technical Awards
  • Key Stage 5 (16-19) Technical Certificates
  • Key Stage 5 (16-19) Technical Level Qualifications
  • Key Stage 5 (16-19) Applied General Qualifications

Other qualifications with section 96 approval are also available.

Find out more about our new Technical Qualifications >

New types of providers

It’s not just qualifications that are changing. The range of providers delivering these qualifications is also significantly expanding through the introduction of studio schools, UTCs, career colleges and academies.

Greater technology use and digital delivery

The Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was set up in January 2013 to make practical recommendations on ensuring the effective use of digital technology in learning, teaching and assessment.

When are the changes taking place?

Some of the changes are already being implemented. From 2013, the Department for Education (DfE) introduced 16-19 study programmes and funding changes. This was followed by the introduction of the new Technical Awards in September 2014.

From September 2016, there will be first teaching of Key Stage 5 Technical Level Qualifications (Level 3) that meet full DfE design principles, including employer involvement in delivery and/or assessment.

14-19 Reforms timeline

Please click on the image to see a timeline of the changes taking place.

14-19 Reforms timeline


Key changes affecting delivery of Technical Qualifications


City & Guilds will provide all assessment material required for the following:

  • Synoptic assessment (end exam) – this is an externally set, internally marked, externally moderated end exam. It will replace unit-based assessment
  • Externally moderated assignment – this is an externally set, internally marked, externally moderated assignment. It is designed to assess a specific optional task/area of the qualification. Download the City & Guilds Marking and Moderation Guide >
  • External exam – this is externally set and assessed. There is the option for learners to do either a paper-based assessment or a computer-based assessment through City & Guilds online platform.
  • View the 2017 Technical Qualifications exam timetable >

Employer involvement (Key Stage 5 only)

Technical Qualifications require employer interaction in delivery and/or assessment. This must relate to the mandatory content of the qualification and centres must ensure that all learners receive meaningful employer involvement.  Download City & Guilds Employer Involvement Guide >

Once resit opportunity for external exams

If the learner fails and requires a resit, one opportunity will be available later in the academic year

Overall grading

Learners will be awarded Distinction*, Distinction, Merit, Pass, or Fail as part of the new grading system

How have we responded to the 14-19 Reforms?

City & Guilds has responded to the 14-19 Reforms and also the wider employability challenge in the UK by re-developing our 14-19 programmes to provide new pathways for your learners.

Developed City & Guilds TechBac

TechBac is a fresh approach to 14-19 education that aims to address some of the key challenges identified through the 14-19 Reforms, including employer engagement, improving learner destinations (outcomes) and adopting digital delivery.

TechBac has been mapped to Ofsted’s new Common Inspection Framework and adopts recommendations for employer involvement and digital delivery.

Download our guide to mapping TechBac to the new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework

New City & Guilds Technical Qualifications

At the heart of TechBac are high quality, robust new Technical Qualifications. These qualifications are designed to meet the requirements as set out by the DfE in order to appear on new performance tables and carry UCAS points at Level 3 for HE progression.

Find out more about our new
Technical Qualifications

TechBac aligned to the Government’s Technical Baccalaureate measure

City & Guilds TechBac can be used to meet the requirements of the Government’s Technical Baccalaureate Measure, when delivered alongside a Level 3 Maths qualification, including City & Guilds Core Maths.

Providers may be eligible for more funding for delivery of a 1080 GLH qualification.

Find out more about our Level 3 Maths Qualification

How we can help you with the reforms 

City & Guilds can support you through these changes and ensure you are equipped to take control.

Our dedicated experts are here to help you at every stage, from curriculum planning and digital auditing through to implementation support and staff training.

Find out how your delivery model will need to change to deliver TechBac

Understanding the reforms

Guiding you through the new 14-19 performance measures 

Involving employers in design and delivery 

New qualifications for the new world

Are there other education reforms?

Alongside the 14-19 Reforms, there are changes happening in other areas of education and training.  These include Government reforms to GCSE and A Level qualifications, traineeships, and significant changes to apprenticeships.

The Apprenticeship Reforms put control more firmly in the hands of employers, with employer groups defining work roles and associated assessment plans for the new Apprenticeship Standards.

Qualifications within apprenticeships are not mandatory, although employer groups can identify specifications that lead to qualifications. Independent assessment, which is separate from the delivery of training, is being introduced at the end of the apprenticeship.

Find out more about City & Guilds response to the Apprenticeship Reforms

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