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February 13, 2020

UK education ministers to pull funding from 5,000 post-GCSE qualifications

UK education ministers to pull funding from 5,000 post-GCSE qualifications

The UK’s Department for Education is to stop funding about 40% of the 12,000 qualifications currently available to those over the age of 16.

The move comes as the department prepares to launch what it is calling “T-Levels” this September. T-Levels are post-GCSE courses—equivalent to three A-Levels—that have been developed in collaboration with business and include subjects such as accountancy, catering, finance, hair and beauty, and manufacturing.

The government’s intention is to move toward a system where teenagers choose from one of three routes at the age of 16—A-levels, apprenticeships, or T-Levels.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Removing funding for qualifications that have no or low numbers of enrolments will help make sure students have a clearer choice of the qualifications on offer, and ensure they get the skills they need to progress.”

However, Tom Bewick, the head of the trade association for examining bodies, the Federation of Awarding Bodies, warns that not all qualifications with low enrollment numbers are unworthy of funding. 

One of the qualifications which he said could be at risk is the level three in aromatherapy, used by the Royal National College for the Blind. “It’s actually a qualification that helps learners who have visual impairment gain access to employment in the therapeutic and spa industries,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “It enrols very few numbers but nevertheless that’s an example of a very niche qualification that helps people into the labour market.” 

The Department for Education says its aim “is to ensure all qualifications on offer are high-quality, necessary, and support students to progress into employment or further study.” 

T-Levels will offer students a mixture of classroom learning and “on-the-job” work experience during an industry placement. “Vocational training, in particular in a dual form combining vocational schooling and structured learning on-the-job, is often considered to be one of the most important policy solutions in combating youth unemployment,” writes Werner Eichhorst in his IZA World of Labor article.

However, he warns that establishing a dual vocational training model is a demanding task and is not a quick fix for high youth unemployment. “Structural reforms to revive the economy and reduce entry barriers to employment are also needed,” Eichhorst says. “Since most countries already have some form of vocational training program they could start with existing elements to bring vocational education and training closer to employer and labor market needs,” he advises.

Read more from IZA World of Labor on education and human capital and youth unemployment.