STEM careers toolkit: a guide to UK qualifications frameworks

This document summarises the key features of the new qualification frameworks.

Pre-16 qualifications

Academic or general education qualifications are studied by most 14-16 year olds in the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland they are GCSEs and in Scotland they are Scottish Qualifications Certificates (SQC). A number of STEM subjects are included in these academic or general education qualifications including mathematics, the sciences, design and technology, engineering, computing science and ICT.

Technical awards recently introduced in England are broad, high quality level 1 and level 2 qualifications that equip students aged 14-16 with applied knowledge and associated practical skills not usually acquired through academic or general education. At Key Stage 4, students are encouraged to take up three technical awards alongside a minimum of five academic GCSEs from the list of EBacc subjects. From 2015 a maximum of two vocational qualifications will count towards Key Stage 4 performance tables, changing to three from 2016 when the Progress 8 measure (measuring the performance of students in eight subjects) is introduced.

Post-16 qualifications

From 2014, qualifications for 16-19 year olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been classified as academic, technical or applied general. In addition, young people can gain qualifications through an apprenticeship. 

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