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Education and Qualifications

Qualifications are best understood by their level of difficulty, size and their content. Levels are a standard way of comparing how challenging a qualification is and what learners should be able to do once they have successfully completed it.

There are 9 levels of qualification, an Entry level and levels 1-8. The examples below are a sample of the many available accredited qualifications.

Level Qualifications (examples include vocational qualifications)
Entry Level Entry level certificates; Skills for Life at Entry level; Entry level awards; certificates and diplomas; Foundation Learning Tier pathways; Functional Skills at Entry level
Level 1 GCSEs graded D-G; NVQs at level 1; Key Skills level 1; Skills for Life Foundation Diploma; BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 1; Functional Skills level 1
Level 2 GCSEs graded A*-C; NVQs at level 2; Key Skills level 2; Skills for Life; Higher Diploma; BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 2; Functional Skills level 2
Level 3 AS/A levels; International Baccalaureate; Key Skills level 3; NVQs at level 3; Advanced and Progression Diploma; BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 3; BTEC/OCR Nationals
Level 4 NVQs at level 4; Key Skills level 4; Certificates of higher education; BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 5 Higher national diplomas; Other higher diplomas; HNCs and HNDs; BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 6 Bachelor degrees, graduate certificates and diplomas; BTEC Advanced Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 7 Postgraduate certificates and diplomas; Masters Degrees; BTEC advanced professional awards, certificates and diplomas; Fellowships and fellowship diplomas Diploma in Translation; Advanced professional awards, certificates and diplomas
Level 8 Doctorates; Award, certificate and diploma in strategic direction


All accredited qualifications can be found on the National Database of Accredited Qualifications, where you can also view the level and a basic outline of the content of a qualification and the units it contains. http://register.ofqual.gov.uk

Key Education Stages

The way that each stage of education is described has changed over many years.

Key Stage 0: Nursery and reception years (3–5 years old), now included as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Key Stage 1: Years 1 to 2 (5–7 years old)
Key Stage 2: Years 3 to 6 (7–11 years old)
Key Stage 3: Years 7 to 9 (11–14 years old)
Key Stage 4: Years 10 to 11 (14–16 years old)

The exams at the end of this stage are typically of the GCSE level.

Key Stage 5: Years 12 to 13 (16–18 years old), more commonly referred to as Sixth Form. The exams at the end are typically A-Levels, AS-Levels, NVQs or National Diplomas

Vocational Qualifications

Vocational education prepares learners for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and totally related to a specific trade, occupation, or vocation. It is sometimes referred to as technical education as the learner directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology. Vocational education does not necessarily take place within the workplace or comprise of ‘on-the-job’ training.

As the labour market becomes more specialised and economies demand higher levels of skill, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education.

Vocational education has diversified considerably over recent years and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism, information technology, as well as in the traditional crafts.