From education to employment

Hundreds of school and college leaders sign letter to Secretary of State for Education urging her to delay plan to scrap most BTEC qualifications

360 school headteachers, academy trust chief executives, and college principals have written to Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan urging her to delay the government’s plan to scrap most applied general qualifications such as BTECs by 12 months.

Under current proposals, the Department for Education will publish a list of new qualifications that will replace the current suite of BTECs in July 2024, for schools and colleges to start delivering in September 2025. The school and college leaders describe this timescale as “simply not credible,” and urge the Secretary of State to introduce the new qualifications in September 2026 instead.

Without this 12-month delay, the leaders write that“We will not have sufficient time to ensure that students are on the right courses, or the right staff are in place with the right level of training”.

They point out that prospectuses and marketing materials for courses starting in September 2025 will already have been finalised by July 2024, and engagement work with younger pupils will be well underway. They go on to write that“It will be very difficult to provide effective information, advice and guidance to young people if we do not know what qualifications we can deliver until the end of July 2024.”

The letter was co-ordinated by the Protect Student Choice campaign that opposes the government’s plan to scrap most BTEC qualifications. The leaders reiterate their support for the campaign and write that they have“grave concerns”about the government’s plan, which“would be disastrous for social mobility and economic growth”.

The leaders write that reversing the plan to scrap BTECs would“ensure that many of our students are not left without a viable pathway to higher education or skilled employment at the age of 16”.

However, with the government showing little sign that it will listen to the widespread concerns expressed by schools and colleges, the letter concludes with a plea for a delay as“A change of timing would minimise the disruption to young people’s education caused by implementing this policy.”

Commenting on the letter,

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

“We are dismayed by the government’s plan to scrap lots of hugely popular BTECs and similar qualifications, and a timescale for doing this that lacks any understanding of how the education system actually works. We will be asking the Education Secretary whether this reckless plan has been fully risk-assessed to establish what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of students who currently study these qualifications and the impact on their life chances.” 

Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark Schools, said:

“It is deeply troubling that schools and colleges are being expected to implement such a major change to their curriculum offer so quickly. The qualifications a young person selects at 16 have a huge influence on their future study and employment prospects. They need time, full information about their options and expert support to make the right choice. Compressing the time frame for the implementation of this policy does not serve schools and colleges well but, most importantly, it short-changes our young people who have already suffered so much disruption to their education. 

“BTECs form an important part of Ark’s post-16 offer through our Professional Pathways programme. Many of our students choose BTECs because they want a broader vocational option rather than a specialist route like T-levels. They serve a critical need in the system by bridging the gap for some students between GSCEs and further study; for example, 85% of our BTEC learners go onto Higher Education Institutions, and of these, 40% attend top third universities.”

Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“Tens of thousands of 16- to 18-year-olds study applied general qualifications such as BTECs on their journey to university or the workplace. These students often do not have the GCSE grades required to study A levels or T levels. So, if most BTECs are scrapped, many of these young people will struggle with a qualification that is not suitable for them or will drop out of education altogether. The fact that BTEC students are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds makes the government’s strategy, and the timeline for implementing it, detrimental to both society and the economy.” 

Related Articles