Although over the last 20 years, there has been a large increase in the number of working age people with qualifications, there are still almost 100,000 children leaving education without basic qualifications.

This figure is viewed as unacceptable, and it is vital that action is taken to ensure that no child misses out on the chance to gain qualifications at school.

However, it is also important for anyone who has already left compulsory education to aware of learning and training opportunities and given the necessary support to access them.

Without compromising on the quality of education received, alternative courses and training allow people from any educational background to gain a range of academic and vocational qualifications leading up to the highest degree level courses and professional certificates. 

Consolidating Course Credits to Access Degrees

Available at colleges throughout England and Wales, the Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification that prepares students without GCSEs, A Levels and other traditional qualifications for entrance to university. Access to HE courses are designed to help adults aged over 19 prepare for studies at a degree-level.

There are a variety of courses to choose from including nursing and law, and all result in a certificate that is comparable to an A Level award in terms of UCAS points. Although separate qualifications might not be recognised on their own, when courses are consolidated for use as college credits, they allow students to apply to undertake an accelerated degree, so enabling them to minimise student loans and enter the world of work sooner.

Advanced Education for All

A system of course credits is also used within the Open University. Without requiring any prior qualifications, or even an entry exam, the Open University offers remote and online degree level study to people of all ages and educational backgrounds. Despite having no minimum entry requirements, The Open University ranks favourably alongside other traditional universities, and its degrees are highly regarded. This is due, at least in part, to the commitment to succeed shown by its students.

Studying can also be undertaken part-time offering flexibility around childcare and work. Staff at 75% of the most successful FTSE companies benefit from their employer’s sponsorship to follow OU courses which improve knowledge and skills recommended for their advancement at work. 

Flexibility to Gain Skills at Work

Other work-based learning is a useful and effective way to gain qualifications from scratch. Apprenticeships offer on the job training, some complementary study and, in certain professions, a licence to practice. There are three levels of apprenticeships and, although most will require 2 or more GCSEs, for some first level apprenticeships no qualifications are required.


Although administrative changes may be necessary to ensure that more companies make use of funding to offer training, those that make good use of the scheme find that apprenticeships attract a wide range of recruits, and can be used not just to engage new workers but also to train existing staff.

Even without qualifications, there are many routes into further education that allow anyone who is willing to work hard the opportunity to gain useful qualifications that will open up further study and greatly enhance their job prospects.

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