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Reforms to post-16 qualifications in England

Qualification reform in England

Guidance, key information and explainers to help customers through the reforms

The Department for Education (DfE) set out changes to Level 3 and below qualifications following the post-16 qualification review in England. The Association of Colleges described the changes as ‘…undoubtedly a huge cultural shift with many implications for colleges and the communities they serve.’ The reforms have already started to gather momentum and City & Guilds will be supporting our customers with regular updates and guidance through what will be a significant programme of change.

The aim of the reforms

In 2016 DfE outlined their intention to reform the qualification landscape in England to reduce the ‘complexity and variable quality of the current system’. The Department’s changes aim to more effectively support people to directly move onto high-skilled jobs, or through progression into good quality higher education courses.

Types of qualification to be funded

The changes mean that the only post-16 fundable learning choices in England will be from these qualification categories below.

ESOL, Skills for Life and Maths and English will be reformed for first teaching in 2027. (Functional Skills is not currently impacted by this review)

Alongside GCSE, Functional Skills and apprenticeships there are three routes, which either support progression to higher levels of study, or entry to skilled employment, including:

  • Qualifications supporting progression to technical study at Level 3
    • Progression to T Levels
    • Progression to other Level 3 Technical study
  • Qualifications supporting progression to academic study at Level 3
    • Progression to academic study
  • Technical qualifications supporting entry to skilled employment at Level 2
    • Technical Occupational Entry
    • Technical Additional Specialist
    • Technical cross-cutting function
    • Technical Employer proposed

Alongside A Levels, T Levels and apprenticeships there will be categories of qualifications which support progression to higher levels of study or skilled employment:

  • Technical Occupational Entry
  • Technical Additional Specialist
  • Technical cross-cutting function
  • Technical Employer proposed
  • Alternative Academic Qualifications

Landscape of qualification categories after 2025

Watch this video to have an overview of the categories of technical and academic qualifications that will be available for those aged 16–19, and for adults:

What are the phases of the qualification reforms?

The reform process will be rolled out in three different phases. We are currently in phase 3, during which Level 2 and Level 3 qualification quality criteria are published by Department for Education. Phase 3 will culminate in September 2027 when a comprehensive range of revised Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications will be available for delivery.

Phases of the qualification reform

 

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Aim of phase

Removal of Funding from qualifications with low or no publicly funded enrolments in England.

 

Removal of 16-19 funding from any Technical qualifications that offer a similar learning journey, content and destination as a
T Level.

The quality criteria for Level 2 and Level 3 technical qualifications published.

Comprehensive range of Level 3 and below qualifications available for delivery.

 

Impact of phase

Approx 5,500 qualifications defunded.

 

Qualifications with overlapping content with T Levels defunded.

 

Awarding Organisations to confirm with Department for Education what they intend to develop.

Qualifications confirmed and approved for go-live from Sept 2025 - Sept 2027

 

Status of phase

Phase completed
August 2022.

 

On-going as T Levels continue to go live.

 

Level 2 criteria published April 2023.

Level 3 criteria published Jan 2023.

Awarding Organisations start qualification developments.

 

How can I get involved?

We will be working with a diverse range of individuals and organisations throughout the reform process to feed into the design and development of each qualification and supporting resources. We  encourage customers and sector stakeholders to work with us to shape qualifications that are fit for purpose for learners, delivery staff and employers. There are a range of activities to get involved with, including:

  • Provision of letters of support and demand
  • Subject matter experts to assist with the development of content and assessments. See the Development Consultant information on our associates web page.
  • Consultants to assist with external quality assurance, moderation and other quality assurance activities. Visit our associates web page for opportunities to get involved.
  • Employers and stakeholders to help us ensure that our qualification content is fit for purpose. Read our article on why employers and stakeholders should get involved.

Complete the expression of interest form

How can I stay informed?

To support our customers, City & Guilds will be running webinars and publishing important information and resources to this web page. You can also sign up today to get email updates from City & Guilds to make sure you don’t miss out on reform news, webinars and support and guidance.

Sign up for email communications City & Guilds

Sector-specific reform webinars

If you missed any of our sector-specific webinars looking at the impact of the reforms on our qualifications, you can catch up by watching the recordings.

(27 October 2023) Construction qualification reforms webinar

(27 October 2023) Building Services Engineering qualification reforms webinar

(31 October 2023) Engineering qualification reforms webinar

Curriculum planning webinar

To support our customers in navigating the upcoming reforms to level 3 and below qualifications, we will be delivering a webinar focusing on curriculum planning.

We will cover topics including: a reforms and T Level recap, T Level overlap lists, product extensions and retirements, qualifications submitted for cycle 1, key takeaways for each sector, funding information and the future landscape.

Monday 26 February 9.00 - 10.00 GMT

Register now


Frequently asked questions

Where can I find the key documents from government?

Will all Awarding Organisations be required to develop these new qualifications?

Awarding Organisations are free to choose which of the new qualifications they want to develop.

How will the new Level 3 qualifications be developed?

To qualify for funding from 2025, all Level 3 academic and technical qualifications will need to meet pre-set criteria approved by the Department for Education, in collaboration with IfATE and Ofqual. Depending on the type of qualification this could include:

  • Quality and progression criteria
  • Confirmation of employer demand
  • Meeting or linking to occupational standards
  • Minimal overlap to A Level or T Level content or destination

Once approved, the new Level 3 qualifications will be funded for a period of three years.

When will the new Level 3 qualifications be available?

Once approved, the new qualifications will be become available in two cycles. 

 

Occupational routes

 

Confirmation of funding and customer onboarding to start

First teaching

Cycle 1

Construction and the Built Environment

Digital

Education and Childcare

Health and Science

Engineering and Manufacturing

July 2024

September 2025

Cycle 2

Legal

Finance and Accounting

Business and Administration

Hair and Beauty

Catering and Hospitality

Creative and Design

Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care

Also academic qualifications in sector subject areas that do not align to occupational routes, such as performing arts

July 2025

September 2026

 

When will City & Guilds current Level 3 qualifications no longer be funded?

The defunding of Level 3 qualifications will happen in Summer 2024. The timing has been aligned to the planned roll out of T Levels.

Occupational routes

Date funding removed from qualifications that overlap with approved T Levels

Last date for new starts on existing funded qualifications

Built environment

Digital

Education & Childcare

Health and Science (impacted qualifications will be confirmed once the review of the Health and Science T Level content has concluded)

1 August 2024

Academic year 2023-24

Legal

Finance & Accounting

Engineering & Manufacturing

Business & Admin

Hair & Beauty

Catering & Hospitality

Creative Design

Agriculture, environmental and animal care

1 August 2025

Academic year 2024-25

 

Which of the Level 3 City & Guilds qualifications will not be impacted by these changes?

The following qualifications are not impacted:

  • Core Maths
  • Extended Project qualifications
  • Technical qualifications within T Levels
  • Apprenticeships
  • Traineeships
  • 14-16 offer (Key Stage 4)
  • Qualifications approved for use with pre-16 learners
  • Programmes offered under devolved adult education budgets

Are Level 2 qualifications affected?

Level 2 qualifications are included in the reform. Currently, the first teaching of reformed Level 2 qualifications will be in Autumn 2025 for Cycle 1 subjects, and Autumn 2026 for Cycle 2 subjects, mirroring the approach taken with Level 3 qualifications.

Will qualifications that form part of an apprenticeship or traineeships be impacted by these reforms?

Qualifications within an apprenticeship, traineeship or 14-16 Key Stage 4 are out of scope from the reforms so will continue to be funded.

Level 3 qualifications are currently available in lots of different sizes and their titles can be confusing. Will the reforms help with this?

The aim of the reforms is to simplify the post-16 range of choices and provide more clarity for learners. For those aged 16-19 T Levels will be the main technical qualification of choice, with A Levels for those choosing an academic route. Alternative academic qualifications (AAQs) will also be available in some areas.

For a more detailed breakdown of subject areas please refer to pages 10-15 of the DfE Guide to Post-16 qualification landscape at Level 3 and below for 2025 and beyond.

How will the reforms impact adult learners hoping to progress to Higher Education?

Alongside A Levels and Access to Higher Education Diplomas, adults who want to progress into higher education will have access to the same range of AAQs at Level 3 as 16-19 year olds.

Will any of the new Level 3 qualifications be eligible for inclusion in post-16 performance measures?

Yes, the alternative academic qualifications, occupational entry qualifications, and additional specialist qualifications approved for funding at Level 3 will be eligible for inclusion in 16-18 performance measures.

Will the reforms in England impact provision in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland?

Whilst the Level 2 and Level 3 reforms are England only, changes to how qualifications are funded may impact qualifications that are currently available to learners in the devolved nations. We continue to work with the regulators to ensure minimal disruption for our customers and learners across all our geographies.