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Understanding Recent Developments in 14-19 Education Policy . Bill Martin Vocational Education Division Department for Education Natspec Employment Forum 11 March 2014. Rationale for change – why did we need to reform vocational education?.

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Understanding Recent Developments in 14-19 Education Policy

Bill Martin

Vocational Education Division

Department for Education

Natspec Employment Forum

11 March 2014


Rationale for change – why did we need to reform vocational education?

““For vocational education to be valued and held in high esteem, we must be uncompromising about the value added of vocational education.”

November 2012

Matthew Hancock,

Minister for Skills and Enterprise

“…If it’s essential to drive up the standard of vocational courses, it’s even more important to recognise those higher standards in well-assessed, well respected qualifications.”

November 2013


The Wolf Review of Vocational Education

How can vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds be improved to promote successful progression into the labour market and into higher level education and training routes?

  • Review informed by over 400 pieces of evidence from the public, visits to colleges, academies and training providers, and interviews and discussion sessions with key partners in the sector.
  • DfE implementing all 27 of Professor Wolf’s recommendations, benefiting almost half of all young people over the age of 14.
the popularity of vocational qualifications continues to grow

16-18 year olds participating in full-time education / Apprenticeships (excluding HE)

The popularity of vocational qualifications continues to grow
  • More 16-19 olds are taking vocational qualifications:
  • from 101k – 214k in 5 years.
  • In the past five years, the proportion of learners
  • entered for vocational qualifications at key stage 5
  • has increased from 30% to over half (52%).
  • But employers report…
  • difficulties recruiting workers with technical and STEM skills (39%) (CBI, 2013).
  • school and college leavers lack basic numeracy (32%), literacy (31%) and experience (55%)
  • and Professor Wolf report found:
  • 350,000 students were taking qualifications with little or no labour market value.
  • performance tables (at 14-16) and funding rules (at 16-19) were preventing schools and colleges from addressing these issues.

Vocational Students


Higher achieving vocational students





The government’s vocational education reform programme

Performance tables, minimum standards and destination measures to drive changes to vocational qualifications.

16-19 study programmes, work experience, English and maths and reforming the funding formula

Rigorous standards for academic and vocational qualifications

Traineeships, changes to apprenticeships, UTCs and 14–16 enrolment in FE colleges.

Vocational qualifications at KS4 and KS5 and qualification design with employer involvement.

  • Most of Professor Wolf’s 27 recommendations have been or are in the process of being implemented.

Substantial qualification (academic or vocational)

16-19 study programmes

  • From September 2013, all 16 to 19 year-olds are expected to take a coherent “study programme” which is based on their prior attainment at KS4 and focused on enabling them to achieve their career ambitions.


work experience



English and maths to GCSE A*-C (for those without this)

Other non-qualification or ‘enrichment’ activities

Destination measures

EFA monitoring

Minimum standards/ intervention

16-18 performance tables

Ofsted inspections

Funding ‘per student’


Study programmes & SEN

  • Study programme principles are intended to be sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of all students, including those with SEN, and should apply to all SEN students, whatever their level of study, for example:
    • if they are studying at Level 3 preparing for higher education, or
    • studying pre-entry level preparing for supported employment and independent living.
  • However, some students with SEN may be better served by a study programme which focuses on work experience and non-qualification activity rather than qualifications.
  • Study programmes need not include substantial qualifications if they are not appropriate.

Work experience & non-qualification activity

Work experience undertaken as part of a 16-19 study programme can be defined as:

  • a period of time doing unpaid work with an external employer;
  • it must provide the young person with the opportunity to work in an environment, independent from the place where they study (and interaction with their peers), and
  • focus on the skills required for that job.

What will count as work experience?














  • Placement with an external employer

Other non-qualification activities

  • Experience within a realistic work environment
  • Training in independent living
  • CV writing
  • Employer talks/workshops
  • Enterprise activities
  • Interview skills

Our expectation is that institutions will endeavour to offer external work experience as soon as possible, whilst planning to fully implement it from 2014/15.


English and maths

  • All students with SEN should study English and maths if they haven’t already achieved GCSE A* - C grade.
  • Where possible they should be working towards GCSE A* - C, or, otherwise, take other English or maths qualifications that will help them to achieve GCSE over a longer period of time.
  • If that is not possible , they should be taught English and maths in a way which progresses their learning in these subjects and prepares them for employment.

Number of non-GSCE qualifications counting in the school performance tables:







14 – 16 Vocational Qualifications (from 2012)

  • Non-GCSE qualifications taught from 2012 had to demonstrate content, robust assessment and progression to count in performance tables.
  • Only 4% of existing qualifications demonstrated the required characteristics.
  • The remaining 96% accounted for 5% of school attainment (but much more in some schools).
  • Schools and awarding organisations responded quickly to the reforms:
    • DfE ‘deep dive’ found around half of schools planned to change the qualifications they offered.
    • Many new qualifications are being developed to meet the new standards.
  • The latest list (Dec 2013) includes new qualifications developed in partnership with industry.

16 – 19 Vocational Qualifications (from 2014)

  • From 2016 the two new categories of vocational qualification (Tech Level and Applied General) will be reported separately alongside academic subjects.
  • Only high value vocational qualifications meeting Tech Level and Applied General characteristics will count in performance tables.
  • First list of 227 approved and 91 pending Tech Level and Applied General qualifications published.
  • Circa 90% reduction from the  3,721 level 3 vocational qualifications currently approved for teaching to 16 to 19 year olds in schools and colleges.  
  • Tech Levels in most vocational subject areas, however Information Technology is under-represented. Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care and Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies strongly represented.

Tech Level

High-value level 3 qualification selected from the approved list (50% of curriculum time)

Core maths qualificationat level 3

e.g. A level, AS level,

IB maths, applied maths qualifications.

New qualifications being developed for 2015

Extended project qualification

Level 3 research project with an industry focus

The TechBacc measure will recognise the highest level of technical training and achievements of students aged 16-19

A performance table measure, not a qualification (like the EBacc).

The right combination of qualifications will be recognised as meeting a national standard:

The TechBacc Measure will be applied to courses starting in 2014 – first reported in 2016


14 – 19 Qualification Pathways (from 2014)

Higher education

Academic level 3

A Levels

Higher education, apprenticeship or work

Vocational level 3

Applied General/Tech Level

GCSEs A*- C and approved level 1/2 qualifications

Some occupations require a

level 2 to move to level 3

Higher education, apprenticeship or work

Vocational level 2 occupational qualification


level 3Tech Level

Vocational level 2

Occupational qualification

Apprenticeship or work

In some sectors level 2 will allow entry direct to an occupation e.g. construction/hairdressing


General qualifications reform


  • Reviewed subject content to ensure breadth and depth
  • Greater focus on key skills such as numeracy and literacy
  • An end to modularity and a reduction in controlled assessment
  • A reduction in the use of tiered exams where possible

A levels

  • A levels to be linear with more synoptic assessment and all assessment at the end of two years.
  • A level content redeveloped in line with the Mark Smith report to ensure the qualification adequately prepares students for degree-level study.
  • Universities advising on maths and languages A levels.
  • AS will be decoupled from the A level, so that the marks do not count towards the final A level grade.

Reporting in performance tables

  • Key stage 4- from 2016:
    • Progress across 8 subjects “Progress 8”
    • Attainment across 8 subjects “Attainment 8”
    • Progress and Attainment across 8 subjects
    • (including up to 3 vocational qualifications)
    • Percentage achieving a C grade or better in GCSE/iGCSE English and maths
    • English Baccalaureate(5 A* - C, English, maths, geography or history, the sciences and a language)
  • Key stage 5 - consultation (response awaited):
    • A levels
    • Approved Tech Levels, Applied General qualifications and level 2 qualifications which lead to an occupation.
    • Progression from level 1 to level 2 OR level 2 to level 3 OR level 2
    • leading to an occupation.