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12 education bodies write to Gavin Williamson urging him not to scrap BTECs

Twelve organisations that represent and support staff and students in schools, colleges and universities have today written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urging him not to scrap the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs. 

Earlier this month, the Department for Education confirmed plans to introduce a twin-track system 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 most BTEC qualifications will be removed. 

The Department set out its plans following a review of post-16 qualifications at Level 3. However, in their letter to the Education Secretary, the twelve organisations in the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign say the review ignored the widespread concerns expressed about scrapping BTECs and that “Many young people will be adversely affected by this proposal, but disadvantaged students have the most to lose, a conclusion that your Department’s own equalities impact assessment supports”.

The letter describes applied general qualifications as “engines of social mobility” and cites research from the Social Market Foundation that found 44% of white working-class students enter university with at least one BTEC and 37% of black students enter with only BTEC qualifications. The organisations write that “It is impossible to square the government’s stated ambition to ‘level up’ opportunity with the proposal to scrap most BTECs”.

While a delay to the introduction of the government’s proposals would be “welcome”, the letter goes on to say that this “would not change the fact they have the potential to do huge damage to social mobility and are completely out of step with the views expressed by our members”.

The letter concludes by urging the government “to rethink plans to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications and instead provide assurances that they have an important role to play alongside the equally valuable A levels and T levels in the future qualifications landscape”.

To coincide with the letter to the Education Secretary, the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign has today launched a petition to reverse the plan to remove funding for BTEC qualifications. The petition can be found here.     

Commenting on the letter:

James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“Applied general qualifications like BTECs are popular with students, respected by employers and provide a well-established route to higher education or employment. So it is hard to fathom why the government wants to scrap most of them and force young people to choose between studying A levels or T levels from the age of 16. Disadvantaged students have the most to lose from this proposal, which we hope the government will now take the time to reconsider.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Applied general qualifications give many disadvantaged young people an established route to higher education, apprenticeships and future careers. It would be reckless of the government to ditch these qualifications simply to clear the way for T-levels which may well prove to be a good option for some young people but are largely untried and untested.”

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“At a time when young people need more support than ever to realise and rebuild their futures, scrapping these qualifications is a retrograde step which will damage the prospects of the most disadvantaged students the most. We should be expanding the pathways for young people to succeed and flourish, not closing them off.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said:

“It is clear there is no intention by this Government to level up. Applied General Qualifications have an important role to play in education and supporting social mobility. Cutting funding for the majority of these qualifications will severely disadvantage many students who would benefit from achieving on these courses. It will also lead to colleges becoming unviable, meaning closures as well as teacher and support staff redundancies.”

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