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Post-16 Reform: What it means for AIM Qualifications

Following the review of post-16 qualifications, the Department for Education (DfE) has started to implement its plan for a new, streamlined qualifications system for students aged 16 and over. 

There will be two routes for students to choose from:

1. Technical qualifications: Primarily designed to support progression to skilled employment/ further technical training eg T Levels or an apprenticeship. 

2. Academic qualifications: Primarily designed to support progression to further/higher education eg A Levels or a mixed curriculum of A Levels alongside a vocational qualification, known as an alternative academic qualification (AAQ). (Note. I B Diploma, Access to HE Diploma, core maths, performing arts graded examinations, advanced extension awards, extended project qualifications are out of scope of the review). 

Post-16 qualifications at level 3 – overview of changes 

The changes to level 3 qualifications involve three main phases: 

1. Withdrawal of funding from qualifications that have low or no enrolments (already been introduced).  

2. Technical qualifications that overlap with T Levels will have funding approval withdrawn for 16 to 19 year olds. (These are technical qualification with similar outcomes to those set out in a standard covered by a T Level and aims to support students into employment in the same occupational area). 

3. New criteria for academic and technical qualifications introduced that will need to be met in order for qualifications to be approved for funding in future: 

  • Academic qualifications will need to meet new criteria set by DfE. 
  • Technical qualifications will need to be approved against new criteria set by IfATE. 

Alternative academic qualifications  

These are being categorised as ‘large’ or ‘small’ academic qualifications in a limited range of subjects. Large qualifications are the size of two or three A levels, “small” up to the size of one A level. Qualifications approved in this range will be known as Alternative Academic Qualifications (AAQs) and will be developed in two cycles: 

Cycle 1 - qualifications being funded from September 2025 
Will include subjects that align with waves 1 and 2 of T Level roll-out. These include: 

  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Digital 
  • Education and Childcare 
  • Health and Science 
  • Engineering and Manufacturing 

Awarding organisations have until 31 July 2023 to submit qualifications in cycle 1 routes and subjects that they wish to be considered for funding from 2025-26.  A final list of qualifications that are approved for funding and which will be available to teach in the 2025 to 2026 funding year will be published in July 2024.

Cycle 2 – qualifications funded from 2026 
Will include everything not covered in Cycle 1. A list of qualifications which will be funded from the 2026 to 2027 academic year will be published in July 2025. 

AIM response 

We are currently working on the redevelopment of a number of qualifications as part of this reform. Many of our qualifications will be submitted in cycle 2 either because they are from a sector for first teaching in 2026 or because we are intending to submit them as qualifications which are cross-cutting or have an employer proposed standard. We would appreciate any support you can give us in terms of helping us with employer engagement for occupational qualifications and in requests for information in qualification reviews and completing surveys.  

Useful Links 

Review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England - GOV.UK ( 
Awarding organisations: submitting qualifications for approval - GOV.UK ( 
Review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England: impact assessment - GOV.UK ( 
Reforms to post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England - GOV.UK ( 

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