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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

Curriculum planning through the reforms

Watch our video for support with curriculum planning, as we share a reforms & T Level recap, run through our qualifications submitted as part if cycle one, discuss key takeaways for each sector and share contacts for further support:

What you need to know about the reforms and how they may affect curriculum planning

Curriculum planning guide coverThe Department for Education’s (DfE) qualification reforms at level 3 and below are wide-ranging and will affect many qualifications across all sectors. We understand that navigating these changes may not always be easy, but we are here to support you.

In this guide, we are sharing the information to help you navigate changes brought about by the reforms as you plan your curriculum for 2024 and beyond.

Download the guide

Approved reformed qualifications

Level 3

These qualifications have been approved by IfATE and will be fully funded in England for adults (19+) from September 2025.

Qualification details, including specifications and sample assessment materials, will be made available soon on the qualification pages of our website.

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 on our associates web page.
  • Consultants to assist with external quality assurance, moderation and other quality assurance activities. Visit our 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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some of the most frequently questions for qualification reforms in England.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions