Don’t dismiss students who haven’t yet achieved a level 2 as achieving "nothing", the Association of College’s senior policy manager, Eddie Playfair, has said.
Mr Playfair said we needed to value students who are working hard and improving their skills using level 1 and entry-level qualifications.
His comments come after a Children’s Commissioner report revealed that in 2018, 18 per cent of pupils in England left school without reaching Level 2 attainment – five GCSEs at grades A*-C or equivalent technical qualifications.
Commissioner Anne Longfield said: “It is shameful that last year almost 100,000 children in England left education at 18 without proper qualifications.
“While we should celebrate the progress that is being made in raising standards for millions of children, it should never be an acceptable part of the education system for thousands of children to leave with next to nothing,” she added.
Every year, over 130,000 young people study at level 2 in colleges in England, with the average pass rate being 90 per cent across colleges.
“At the moment, young people face a cliff edge at 16 between success and failure and the stakes are high," Mr Playfair said.
“It’s not surprising that those who don’t make it at 16 often find it hard to scramble back up the cliff – particularly when their post-16 courses are less well funded."
He said that the fact that one in five of 18-year-olds hadn’t achieved level 2 was a major challenge for the system, and that we should be particularly concerned with the growing achievement gap between more disadvantaged young people, those with special needs and their peers.
“We also need the funding and commissioning system to focus on those learners who are most at risk of failing or dropping out. These are generally young people who need the most support and guidance.
“Clearly, more needs to be done and many of the solutions to this problem lie with pre-16 secondary education, and colleges will continue to play their part in re-engaging, re-motivating and supporting the full range of young people, whatever their previous achievements,” he said.