Data in this section refers to the national cohort where the numerator is based on all young people captured in the dataset (not just those in the state-sector in year 11), and has a denominator based on the whole school population (including state-funded maintained schools, independent schools, Alternative Provision (APs) and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)), as recorded at academic age 14.
Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years
Level 2 attainment at 19
As shown in table 2, in 2019/20, 82.8% of 19 year olds were qualified to Level 2, a decrease of 0.7ppts compared with the previous year. There have been consecutive annual falls in Level 2 attainment at 19 since 2015/16. Prior to then, Level 2 attainment at 19 rose every year. Despite the recent falls, Level 2 attainment at 19 has increased by 17 percentage points compared with 2003/04.
Level 2 at 19 by qualification type
Figure 2 shows the 4.7 percentage point fall in Level 2 at 19, between 2014/15 and 2019/20, has been driven by a decrease in the attainment of large vocational qualifications (1) by the same cohort at 16.
Some vocational Level 2 qualifications no longer count in Key stage 4 performance measures following reforms introduced further to Professor Alison Wolf’s review. This has significantly reduced the offering and take-up of these larger vocational qualifications at Key stage 4.
However, the fall in Level 2 via vocational qualifications at 16, between 2014/15 and 2019/20, has been partially offset by an increase in Level 2 at 16 via GCSEs. Therefore, it is probable that at least some, but not all, of the pupils who would otherwise have achieved Level 2 via vocational qualifications at 16 are instead achieving Level 2 via 5 GCSEs at the same age.
(1) At least 325 guided learning hours
Level 3 attainment at 19
As shown table 3, in 2019/20, 60.2% of 19 year olds were qualified to Level 3, an increase of 0.3ppts compared to the previous year. The proportion of 19 year olds qualified to Level 3 increased each year from 2003/04 to 2014/15. This figure has fluctuated since then, hitting the series peak in 2016/17.
Level 3 attainment at 19 by qualification type
As shown in figure 3, the overall increase in Level 3 attainment at 19 between 2003/04 and 2016/17 was mainly driven by a rise in vocational qualification attainment.
Level 3 attainment in 2019/20 has increased by 0.3 percentage points compared to a year prior, driven mainly by a 0.5ppt and 0.2ppt increase in vocational qualification and A level attainment respectively. Level 3 attainment through Other and AS level qualifications have both fallen by 0.2 percentage points.
The fall in AS level attainment coincides with the decoupling of AS levels from A levels as part of reforms which started in the 2015/16 academic year. This has resulted in AS results no longer counting towards an A level (and AS levels becoming standalone qualifications), which has led to a reduction in AS level entries (see A level and other 16-18 results for more information). In turn, this had resulted in a fall in Level 3 attainment via AS levels, with just 0.1% of 19-year olds having achieved Level 3 through this route in 2019/20.