In September, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published the principles on which they will fund qualifications for 2019-2020 and which confirm even more radical changes for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The move appears to be another step in the Department’s plan to reduce the plethora of qualifications delivered, with a view to both simplifying and improving the quality of vocation education.  DfE has a vision of a sector that delivers far fewer qualifications but all of which will have a clearer purpose and demonstrable benefits in terms of learner progression and destination (not an ambition any of us would want to disagree with, I am sure).

In January, a review was announced that will see 160 Level 3 qualifications cease to be funded from August 2020.

In addition, the Department has also recently announced a review of all Level 2 qualifications. They had already confirmed that “Level 2 Vocational Qualifications” (which includes all vocational qualifications which are not Technical Certificates and have a size of at least twice that of standard GCSEs) will no longer appear on the ‘Compare Schools and Colleges in England’ website for 2019. Technical Certificates will be the only level-2 qualifications which will appear.

There are several changes to funding principles highlighted but the three key changes which stood out to us are (in summary) as follows:

·        New qualifications will not be approved for funding if they run alongside other qualifications in the 16 to 18 performance tables (as at March 2019).

·        For 14 to 19 funding, a qualification’s operational end date will be the key date reflected in funding approval and funding validity (as opposed to the qualification review date).

·        Individual components or units of a qualification featured in the 16 to 18 performance tables will no longer be funded for standalone delivery under the ESFA funded AEB local flexibility offer.

The full guidance document can be read here:

This guidance brings together in one place all the principles and processes DfE use to approve qualifications for funding. Although written for awarding bodies, the document will – no doubt! – be of great interest to colleges and providers as well.

Given all these changes, it seems likely that colleges may well be very confused as to which qualifications are funded and which are not. It may also be a challenge to determine which qualifications to use to replace those where the funding is disappearing.

Here at eTrackr-ILP, we are looking at how we can develop our software to help flag funding concerns or end dates, to assist our customers in their decision making. In the meantime, we urge all FE Colleges and providers to read the guidance carefully and reflect on their curriculum offer. Forewarned is forearmed, after all.