From education to employment

Labour will pause and review planned scrapping of BTECs

hands in the middle

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Bridget Phillipson has confirmed that a Labour government would not press ahead with the current plan to scrap most applied general qualifications such as BTECs. In her response to a letter sent by the 29 organisations in the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign, the Shadow Secretary of State wrote that a future Labour government would  “ensure all students are able to complete their courses and will review the diversity of options at Level 3 before making further changes”.

Young people in England can currently choose between three types of Level 3 qualification at the age of 16: academic qualifications such as A levels, technical qualifications that lead to a specific occupation, and applied general qualifications such as BTECs, which combine the development of practical skills with academic learning – in the words of Keir Starmer in his major education speech today, they bring together both “practical problem-solving and academic rigour”. In July 2021, the Department for Education confirmed plans to replace this three-route model with a two-route model of A levels and T levels (a new suite of technical qualifications), where “most” young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, funding for the majority of BTEC qualifications will be removed.

The #ProtectStudentChoice campaign believes that for a significant number of young people, BTECs will continue to provide a more effective route to higher education or skilled employment than A levels or T levels, and has been campaigning for the government to pause and review its plan. While the government has pledged to press ahead, today’s announcement means that a change of course is possible if a Labour government is elected.

Commenting on the letter from Bridget Phillipson,James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“This is a very welcome and positive response from Bridget Phillipson. In accepting the Protect Student Choice campaign’s request to pause and review the Level 3 defunding process, Labour has thrown a potential lifeline to tens of thousands of young people who will be left without a pathway under the current government’s plan to scrap most BTECs.Knowing that a Labour government would adopt a more considered approach to qualification reform will come as welcome news to schools, colleges and universities who until now, have had no alternative but to plan for a hasty and misguided cull of applied general qualifications. In our conversations with the Labour team they have been clear that no AGQ will be defunded until a review of the options at Level 3 has been carried out. This is a potentially game-changing development in 16-19 education and illustrates a commitment to the sort of evidence-based policymaking that the government has chosen not to adopt at any stage of the Level 3 reform process”.

  1. The letter from the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign to Bridget Phillipson can be found here and the response can be found here
  2. The #ProtectStudentChoice campaign is a coalition of 29 employer groups and organisations co-ordinated by SFCA that represent students, staff and leaders in schools, colleges and universities. More information can be found on the campaign website here
  3. Under the government’s plans most applied general qualifications such as BTECs will be scrapped. The government has already stopped 74 of the 134 applied general qualifications from being considered for approval in the future. More information can be found here.

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