Protect Student Choice – don’t scrap BTECS

SSAT supports the Protect Student Choice campaign opposing DfE plans to de-fund a host of Applied General Qualifications, including BTECs, from September 2024.

At present the plans are to give post-16 students a straight choice between an academic A-level route and a vocational Technical (T) level route.

We are deeply concerned about this proposal and believe that AGQs have a vital role to play in the future qualifications landscape. SSAT supports the joint position statement on the future of applied general qualifications set out below:

  • We share the government’s ambition to create a world class post-16 education system, comprising both technical and academic routes, that helps all students to fulfil their potential and meets the needs of employers.
  • We welcome the introduction of T-levels and many colleges and schools have already started to deliver these stretching new qualifications.
  • However, we are concerned that moving to a binary system of T-levels and A-levels will lead to many of the newly-reformed, high quality, applied general qualifications (AGQs) being de-funded.
  • For many young people, AGQs (taken alongside A-levels or as part of a standalone study programme) will be a more appropriate route to support progression to higher levels of study or a meaningful job, than an A-level or T-level-only study programme.
  • Although AGQs are often available in similar subjects, they are a different type of qualification that provide a different type of educational experience – one that combines the development of skills with academic learning.
  • De-funding AGQs will leave many students without a viable pathway at the age of 16 and will hamper progress to higher education or skilled employment. The Department for Education’s own impact assessment concludes that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have the most to lose if AGQs are de-funded.
  • The present implementation timeline is not feasible, particularly given the unfolding impact of the Covid pandemic. Funding should not be removed for any applied general qualification unless an impartial, evidence-based assessment has concluded that it is not valued by students or employers.
  • Our shared priority is to #ProtectStudentChoice by ensuring that AGQs continue to play a major role in the future qualifications landscape.

The campaign encouraged MPs and Peers to write letters objecting to the changes with at least 118 agreeing to do this. On Tuesday evening, when this was debated in the House of Lords, there were impassioned speeches in support of the campaign and two amendments successfully voted through:

  • Amendment 29. Funding for Level 3 courses including BTECs cannot be withdrawn for 4 years after the Act is passed “to ensure that T-levels are fully embedded and acceptable to students, employers and universities.”
  • Amendment 31. Insert: “No student will be deprived of the right to take two BTECs, AGQ or a Diploma or an extended Diploma.

Which demonstrates that the campaign is being effective.

#ProtectStudentChoice

You and your staff can support the campaign by signing the petition. Let’s #ProtectStudentChoice together!

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