New AAT Syllabus Change 2022 – Why does it matter now?

AAT is currently preparing their regular syllabus change to come into action in February 2022, moving over from AQ2016 to ‘Qualifications2022’. This has been delayed from the original September 2021 date due to COVID.

We think it is important to share this information as the new syllabus may have implications on recruitment that is relevant now.

Qualifications2022

New AAT Syllabus Change 2022 – Why does it matter now?

AAT is currently preparing their regular syllabus change to come into action in February 2022, moving over from AQ2016 to ‘Qualifications2022’. This has been delayed from the original September 2021 date due to COVID.

We think it is important to share this information as the new syllabus may have implications on recruitment that is relevant now.

Below is some useful information explaining why these changes to Qualifications2022 matter now. As well as how it will impact you and your students.

The overview

The new qualification, Qualifications2022, does a great job of striking a balance between retaining the AAT’s robust technical grounding that employers value, whilst introducing increased business awareness and commercial focus. Ensuring trainees are prepared for effective roles in the evolving business environment. It will also offer better preparation for students planning to move onto further qualifications and level 7 apprenticeship programmes. However, employers may need to accept that some students will benefit from starting at a lower level than would be possible under AQ2016. They may therefore take longer to complete their AAT qualification.

This is likely to be amplified by the disjointed learning young people have experienced throughout 2020 and 2021. As well as their reduced practice in taking and preparing for exams, and less exposure and opportunity for learning in business practices due to fewer part-time jobs.

Key dates:

31st January 2022 – Last day for registration under AQ2016

1st February 2022 – All registrations will be for Qualifications2022 from this date

30th June 2023 – Last assessment date for AQ2016

What are the changes?

The main differences between AQ2016 and Qualifications2022 are:

  • The removal of repetition of syllabus content between levels
  • Update of material to better reflect current conditions and tasks in the accountancy
  • All levels have fewer assessments as part of the qualification
  • The only synoptic assessment that forms part of the qualification is in level 2 (but apprentices will need to sit an additional synoptic exam at levels 3 and 4 as part of their EPA’s)
  • Removal of some papers:
    • Level 2 – Using Accounting Software
    • Level 3/ Level 4 – Synoptic Assessment
  • Adding of some papers:
    • Level 2 – The Business Environment
    • Level 3 – Business Awareness
  • The combining of some papers:
    • Level 3 – Advanced Bookkeeping and Final Accounts Preparation have been combined into Final Accounting
    • Level 4 – Budgeting and Decision & Control have been combined into Advanced Management Accounting
  • There are four new ‘themes’ throughout all levels; technology, communication, ethics, and sustainability
  • For apprenticeships – the full AAT qualification will be completed ‘on-programme’ (before gateway)
  • EPA – will be outside of the qualification for levels 3 and 4
  • The Level 2 synoptic is a new in-tray task. Continued use of the current synoptic for Level 3 and Level 4
  • Guided learning hours increased for L2 and L3 but reduced for L4

What are the implications of these changes?

Entry Points:

To help with clear progression in competency, the repetition of topics covered at more than one level will be removed. Also aiding to build on student’s existing knowledge as they progress. This however will make it harder for students who are fast-tracked, as they may lack the basic knowledge and skills in topics that have been covered at a lower level.

Fast track approaches will therefore need to be looked at carefully and the student’s past academic record considered. Student’s past experience and whether or not they are a high achiever will become more important to ensure they do not struggle if they are fast-tracked.

This problem is likely to be exacerbated by the ‘COVID generation’ of students in the 2021 and 2022 intakes. These students will have suffered from disjointed learning, less experience of taking exams, and weaker inter-personal skills as a result of fewer part-time job opportunities and reduced in-person class contact. These students will likely need more help and attention and may be better suited to starting AAT at Level 2. As a result, it is likely to take longer for a student without an accountancy background to complete their AAT qualification.

The presentation here shows an overview of entry points for different students. This PDF gives more detail on learner journey options.

New Themes:

Technology, communication, sustainability, and ethics will now form the four key themes running throughout all AAT levels. Students will build on their existing knowledge as they progress through the qualification. Level 2 will introduce a topic, Level 3 will expand on it, and Level 4 will put it into practice. A better understanding of core techniques will make the transition to higher levels easier for students.

These themes and the Qualifications2022 syllabus as a whole will better reflect the current conditions and real accountancy tasks expected in the industry. As well as being of huge value for students who transition to more advanced qualifications. In keeping with this, Level 2 Using Accounting Software and the Level 3 synoptic assessment have been removed from the syllabus. This is because accounting software and technology is now more specific to individual companies. However, students will still need to know how to put digital and computer systems into practice.

The presentation here provides more information on specific changes to each level and gives a closer look at how the new themes will be incorporated.

Transitioning to Qualifications2022:

Students who register onto the AAT qualification before 1st February 2022 and who are not able to finish Level 4 by 28th February 2023 will have to transition from AQ2016 to Qualifications2022 at some point. Depending on where students are in their studies, some may need additional support to fill knowledge gaps between the qualifications. First Intuition will advise on the most appropriate point to transition and will develop specific resources plugging any knowledge gaps.

Another consideration for transition is that:

Students with distinction level grades will be able to transfer their results over for certain units. However, this will mean they lose 30% of their mark for that unit. It therefore needs to be considered that some students will want to resit the unit to get their grade back up. First Intuition will ensure students in this situation will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. So each specific student is on the best route. First Intuition will also support students with specialised sessions to plug the knowledge gap for those having to transition over.

Employers need to consider the best route for their students to ensure they are the least impacted by the transition to Qualifications2022. Employers will need to think about when they intake new students to ensure they are not spread across two syllabi. We recommend employers who would usually intake students to start in January 2022, instead start them in February 2022 to ensure they all begin on the Qualifications2022 syllabus.

Apprenticeships:

The recently approved Level 2 apprenticeship standard will become a more appealing option for employers. This is because the AAT qualification is likely to take longer for many students to complete.

The additional support, both financial and in the focus on additional communication skills for apprentices, will likely result in a rise in the number of employers opting for Level 2 apprenticeships to support training for AAT under Qualifications2022.

Why is this important now?

Many employers are already in progress with recruitment for their next intake of school and college leavers to study AAT. Candidates who will start towards the end of 2021 or at the start of 2022 will at some point throughout their AAT studies have to sit Qualifications2022 assessments. This because there won’t be enough time to complete the full qualification under AQ2016. Students starting in 2021 will have time to complete their first level in AQ2016 but probably not their whole AAT qualification.

Students currently studying AQ2016 will have until 28th February 2023 to complete their AAT qualification under the current syllabus. Anyone who has not completed the qualification by this date will have to finish their remaining units on the Qualifications2022 syllabus. They may also have to do additional studies to fill the knowledge gap if they don’t plan the transition carefully.

This is important for employers to consider in their current recruitment process. The students being hired later in 2021 and especially those being fast-tracked risk lacking assumed knowledge when they move to higher levels. Similarly, students being recruited now are likely to have suffered from the adverse impacts to their education from COVID. Meaning they may need a gentler transition into the workplace. It is therefore likely to take longer for them to complete their AAT qualifications.

Employers more than ever before need to take into consideration the individual candidate’s academic achievements before deciding whether to start them on Level 2 or Level 3. The recruitment may also need to be more forgiving to students in the ‘COVID generation’. Offering more support at the beginning and expecting later qualification dates.

Watch a discussion on Qualifications2022

You can catch up on a previous session here:

Qualifications2022

You can also download a copy of our presentation slides here. These include a flowchart of our current thinking on entry points and pathways depending upon student’s academic backgrounds. This PDF gives more detail on learner journey options.

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