DfE publishes interim evidence from Level 4-5 review

11 September 2018 Natasha Watkinson

In August, the Department for Education (DfE) published an interim evidence overview as part of its ongoing Review of Level 4-5 education, referencing two recent Gatsby reports.

Following on from the Post-16 Skills Plan, the Government announced in October 2017 that it would be reviewing current Level 4-5 education with the ambition of reforming the system to deliver the skills employers and the economy need and to offer attractive routes to higher earning technical roles. The final proposals of the Review are due next year, ensuring that any reforms to Level 4-5 education can articulate with the first wave of T-levels.

The interim evidence overview presents the headline findings of the Review to date, drawing from four recent reports. It concludes that while employers recognise the need for Level 4-5 skills, reflected in the earnings premium associated with achieving Level 4-5 qualifications, the current system presents challenges to them in identifying relevant provision. It also recognises that the wide range of qualification and lack of a single badge of quality, coupled with an absence of clear information, advice and guidance, is challenging to potential learners. For providers, difficulties arise due to limitations on the employer engagement they can rely on, the costs associated with staffing, equipment, and the adaptability of courses, and complexities in the regulatory system and relationships across HE and FE.

Two of the four reports referenced in the overview were commissioned and published by Gatsby:

  • Mapping the higher technical landscape (by RCU), provides a detailed overview of the Level 4/5 provision delivered in 2015/16 by further education providers and higher education institutions, broadly mapped to the 15 technical education routes; and 
  • Level 4 and 5 provision in England: provider perspectives (by York Consulting; commissioned in partnership with the DfE), describes the views of a range of higher education providers (including further education colleges, universities, and alternative providers) on the viability of Level 4 and 5 provision; labour market and employer influences on Level 4 and 5 provision; and providers’ approaches to widening participation at Levels 4 and 5.

Over the coming months the DfE will be continuing to develop its evidence base on Level 4-5 education, including a deeper exploration of how the market works for Level 4-5 provision, and what influences learner choice. There will be close connection between this review and that of Post-18 Education and Funding, and the DfE expects to publish Level 4-5 proposals for formal consultation alongside the conclusion of the Post-18 Review in early 2019. Subject to the outcomes from that consultation the DfE expects to have final proposals agreed later in 2019 to ensure that there is a clear line of sight on reforms for the first group of T Level students.

The interim evidence overview and links to all four reports can be found here: