20 Apr 2021

DfE Review of Level 2 qualifications

In January 2021 the Department for Education launched a call for evidence to inform its review of post-16 qualifications at Level 2 and below.

Consultation questions included: Are ESOL qualifications at Levels 1 and 2 necessary? Do you agree that funding approval for Level 2 ICT Functional Skills qualifications should be removed? 


The Department is reviewing post-16 qualifications at Level 3 and below, "to ensure that every qualification approved for public funding is necessary and has a distinct purpose, is high quality and supports progression to positive outcomes."

In the foreword of the call for evidence on Level 2 qualifications, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills and Apprenticeships wrote:

"Too many study programmes and qualifications at Level 2 and below do not have clear progression routes to further education or employment. They are not allowing the diverse range of students they serve, including some of the most vulnerable or those with special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities, to fulfil their potential." 

Key points of note from the call for evidence

  • There are around 8,000 level 2 and below qualifications across a wide range of subject sector areas, but many have low or no demand.
  • Level 2 and below consists of level 2, level 1 and entry level. Functional Skills qualifications and GCSEs – both out of scope of the review – represent a small number of qualifications at level 2 and below (2% each). However, they account for 32% and 15% respectively of all post-16 level 2 and below enrolments. 

English (including ESOL) and maths

"We want to understand the circumstances in which students might need English and maths qualifications other than GCSEs and Functional Skills Qualifications (FSQs). We are looking to understand who the current English, maths and ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) qualifications serve and how they can be better targeted towards progression and employment."

Some key questions were:

  • Are the National Standards for Adult Literacy and Numeracy and the Adult English Literacy and Numeracy Core Curriculum still relevant for the English and maths qualifications that are available alongside GCSEs and FSQs? 
  • Are ESOL qualifications at levels 1 and 2 necessary? If yes, what role do they play?
  • Are the National Standards for Adult Literacy and ESOL Core Curriculum still relevant and useful in relation to ESOL qualifications and their teaching? 


"We propose removing public funding from Level 2 ICT FSQs and Level 2 IT for User qualifications. Following our essential digital skills reforms at Level 1 and the introduction of up-to-date and relevant qualifications supported by employers, we consider Level 1 to be sufficient in providing the essential digital skills needed to operate effectively in the workplace and everyday life." 

Key question:

  • Do you agree that we should remove funding approval from the Level 2 ICT FSQ and Level 2 ICT User qualifications? 

The outcome of the consultation will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.

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