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Level 3 Vocational Qualifications Reform in England

The post-16 Level 3 vocational qualifications landscape in England is undergoing major reform. The Department for Education (DFE) set out changes to Level 3 and below qualifications following the post-16 qualification review in England.

You can continue to teach your Level 3 qualifications with confidence this year and next and be reassured that very few qualifications will be affected in 2024/25.

The key changes will be made in 2025/26 and 2026/27.

Who will be affected by the Reforms?

The reforms will affect level 3 qualifications taken by 16–19-year-olds, and 19+ year-olds funded by the ESFA under the Adult Education Budget, the European Social Fund (ESF) or accessing Advanced Learner Loans.

We are currently in phase 3, during which Level 2 and Level 3 qualification quality criteria are published by Department of Education. Phase 3 will reach a final stage in September 2027 when a range of revised Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications will be available for delivery.

What are the policy changes?

The post-16 level 3 vocational qualifications landscape in England is undergoing major reform. In July 2021, the Government completed a Review that impacts Level 3 vocational qualifications in England.

In line with previous publications, the latest guidance reiterates the policy of two clear pathways in the post-2025 level 3 qualifications landscape, with a broader choice for adults.

Young people will choose either an ‘academic’ pathway or a ‘technical’ pathway.
A levels will form the core of the academic offer at level 3.

T Levels will form the core of the technical offer at level 3 and will cover most occupations that a learner might study at 16-19. However, a limited range of other qualifications will also be available to be taken alongside or as alternatives to T Levels.

For adults, the same academic qualifications offer will be available as for 16–19-year-olds, but the DfE recognise that a greater choice of technical qualifications will be needed.

The reforms take place in phases:

In 2024/25 and 2025/26 qualifications will no longer be eligible for funding if they overlap with T Levels.

Alongside this, all level 3 qualifications will be redeveloped in two cycles:

  1. 2025/26,
  2. 2026/27 & 2027/28.

Qualifications that are not redeveloped in line with new DfE criteria will no longer be eligible for funding.

New qualifications will be approved for funding for 3 years rather than the current 12 months.

It is important to note that the DfE have prescribed the size of new qualifications, and the subjects and sectors in which they can be developed.

What is the reform timetable?

The reforms will be implemented in phases, from 2024/25 through to 2027/28.

Qualifications will be removed for funding where they overlap with T Levels in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

New qualifications will be developed in two Cycles:

  1. 2025/26
  2. 2026/7 and 2027/28.

Funding eligibility will be removed for existing qualifications where they have not been redeveloped in line with new criteria.

Post 2025 Landscapes

To help you better understand how the technical and academic landscapes for will look post 2025 for Level 2 and Level 3, we have created simplified diagrams.

Level 2 Post-2025 Landscape: Groups

Level 3 Post-2025 Landscape: Categories