Do Applied Generals prepare learners for the workplace better than A Levels?

The recent publication of the results of Ofqual’s annual survey, ‘Perceptions of qualifications in England: wave 16’, has found that Applied Generals are thought to better prepare learners for the workplace when compared to GCSE and A-Level qualifications. 

The document sets out the results of Ofqual's annual survey, which looks at head teachers’, teachers’, students’, parents’, the general public’s, employers’ and Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) perceptions and confidence in qualifications in England. For the first time, this included Applied Generals, alongside A levels and GCSEs.

With the government firstly choosing to retain the qualifications and their parity to A Levels and other Level 3 qualifications within T-Levels as part of the Skills Plan, the inclusion is yet another hint that Applied Generals seem to be firmly on the agenda for the future of education in England. 

Applied Generals are hinged on the importance of tangible routes into the workplace, using applied learning techniques and are inspired by real life situations and transferable skills, arguably more so than traditional academic options. The data shows that this concept is largely accepted by respondents as 38% of those surveyed agreed that Applied Generals are a good preparation for work, faring better than GCSEs at 35% and also narrowly beating A Levels to the punch at 37%.

Overall, confidence was highest for AS/A Level qualifications, higher than for both GCSE and Applied General qualifications. Ofqual also note that “Outcomes are generally lower [for Applied Generals] than for GCSEs, AS and A Levels, but there are in some cases large numbers of ‘don’t know’ responses. This indicates a lack of awareness, rather than a true review of any interaction with, or delivery of, Applied Generals.

Not surprisingly, as the relatively new kids on the block, having only been around since 2014, the perceptions of Applied Generals were comparably low to that of their long standing A Level counterparts. However, with 25% of responders agreeing that Applied Generals are trusted qualifications, this new data sets a respectable benchmark for public knowledge and understanding and one which we are working towards improving. 

At NCFE, our position on Applied Generals is clear: we’ve developed a range of Applied Generals as part of our post-16 offer, in a variety of subject areas, most of which have been approved by the Department for Education to appear in the 2020 performance tables. This could also be construed as another breadcrumb from the powers that be that we are moving further towards a more positive perception of Applied Generals and their place in education.