Today [Saturday], Labour (@UKLabour) has warned that the Conservatives’ plan to scrap most BTEC qualifications risks embedding the inequalities seen in 2021 results for thousands of young people.
The Government’s own analysis shows their plans to scrap qualifications will disproportionately hit BTEC courses taken by disadvantaged students and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the same students who have been outstripped in this week’s GCSE results and BTEC results.
Students eligible for free school meals were less than half as likely to achieve a grade 7 in their GCSEs compared with more advantaged peers, while for learners taking level one or two BTECs the attainment gap for students on free school meals has increased 74 per cent since 2018.
A similar pattern is seen for students with SEND where the attainment gap has increased 47 per cent for those studying level one or two BTECs.
The Conservatives’ chaotic last-minute approach to results has opened the door to this unfairness, with the decision to scrap courses taken by these learners risking embedding this inequality and preventing students moving onto level 3 (A-level equivalent) study.
Even before the pandemic, progress in closing the gap in learning between pupils on free school meals and their peers had stalled for five years, leaving poorer pupils 18 months behind their peers when taking their GCSEs.
Universities report that scrapping BTECs is also likely to put barriers in place for students who want to go onto university. Since 2011 the number of students applying to universities with BTEC qualifications has nearly doubled, while previous research has found 44 per cent of white working class students entered university with at least one vocational qualification.
Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, said:
“The Conservatives’ plan to scrap BTEC risks embedding inequalities and holding young people back.
“Despite recognising the harmful impact that this decision will have on students from poorer backgrounds the Conservatives are ploughing ahead showing a shocking disregard for young people’s life chances.
“These qualifications are valued by employers, universities and students themselves. The Government’s alternative T-Level qualifications are currently unproven and a hasty charge to abolish BTECs would be hugely irresponsible.”