From education to employment

ASCL calls for rethink on cull of BTECs

Julie McCullock, Director of Policy at the Association at the Association of College Leaders (ASCL)

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, will today (Saturday 18 March) describe plans to scrap many popular BTECs and similar qualifications as “risky and reckless” and call for ministers to reconsider.

Speaking on a fringe panel at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York, Ms McCulloch will say:

“Ministers are hoping to boost skills education through the introduction of T-levels, but intend to leverage uptake in these new qualifications by scrapping many BTECs and other existing and popular vocational qualifications, even though these provide established routes to higher education and careers.

“Whereas many BTECs can be taken alongside other qualifications, T-levels require 16-year-olds to commit to a two-year programme of study and training in a single area of employment. For young people who know what career path they want to follow, T-levels may work well, but for those who are less sure at this age BTECs provide the flexibility they need.

“Our concern is that scrapping BTECs will leave students with reduced options and that young people will end up on courses which do not suit them, leading to poor outcomes and high drop-out rates.

“We have no idea how many young people may be affected in this way and neither does the government as far as we know. This is why we will be asking Education Secretary Gillian Keegan what risk assessments have been carried out and what mitigations have been put in place.

“We are particularly concerned about the impact on students with special educational needs, from deprived backgrounds, and from ethnic minority backgrounds, because many of these students currently study BTECs and go on to higher education through this route.

“As such, scrapping BTECs without any real idea of how this will impact on young people feels risky and reckless – an exercise driven by politics rather than common sense – and we urge ministers to reconsider before it is too late.

“Furthermore, the recent announcement of a last-minute decision to defer the start of four new T-levels that were due to begin this September, has left many schools and colleges in disarray, with confused and disappointed students and parents. This is surely further evidence that the whole reform and defunding process must be slowed down by at least a year, which is what the Protect Student Choice campaign is calling for.”

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