This article considers the implications of current government education policy for those learners within the English post-compulsory sector undertaking General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ) Foundation (level 1) programmes. It argues that within the current policy context, a lower value is placed on young people working towards certain credentials than on others and that this value is determined by the potential economic value of the qualification. Therefore, those young people undertaking Foundation (level 1) programmes are perceived to be of less value than those undertaking more mainstream programmes at level 2 and above. In doing this, current education policy is effectively creating an invisible cohort of young people whose needs are not understood and who, constrained by social, cultural, class and educational barriers, are likely to form the underclass within the 40/30sol;30 society described by Hutton (1995). Finally, this article raises questions about how some of these issues might be effectively addressed and calls for a wider debate on these issues as one means of finding a greater level of esteem for the young people undertaking learning programmes at level 1.