Design principles

We’ve worked with international experts to define a framework for developing our new qualifications, so they meet all the criteria to make them world-class.

We’re committed to building qualifications that assure progression to a fulfilling, worthwhile next step for every learner. They need to uphold an internationally benchmarked standard, that young people aspire to and that teachers, training providers and employers know represents excellence.

To be defined as world-class, our qualifications must follow four design principles. They must be:


Every qualification should specify demanding content to develop higher order knowledge and thinking skills, and set appropriate assessment tasks which are internationally benchmarked and attest to the acquisition and application of the specified knowledge and skills.


Every qualification should make a rigorous assessment of students against standards which are well understood and demanded by end users internationally, and ensure that the integrity of this standard is maintained. This includes providing assurances that holders of the qualification are literate and numerate. By making explicit links to international benchmarks in mathematics, science and English, as Germany has done, we can understand our progress against our peers. This is vital, because it is on this global stage that our young people will be required to perform.


Every qualification should support inclusion by ensuring the curriculum journey towards a new standard is embedded in the prior learning of students taking the new exam, and that the route to reaching the standard is flexible to recognise different abilities – but the standard is never compromised. Whilst maintaining rigour, we must also avoid capping aspiration, whether through the design of the specification, the form of assessment, the incentives of the accountability system or the structure of teaching in a school.


Every qualification should empower young people to access the culture, skills development and capabilities necessary for progression to ambitious next steps.