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SSAT backs campaign to protect student choice Post 16

SSAT has joined with 10 leading education bodies to urge the Government to re-think its plans to defund Applied General Qualifications, including BTECs and move to a binary system where students will have to choose between a binary academic or occupational route Post 16. Following a consultation which closed in January the Government is planning to respond soon and it is widely believed that funding for Level 3 courses will be confined to A levels and the newly introduced Technical Levels.

As a result of defunding the Applied General Qualification (AGQ’s) schools and colleges will no longer be able to offer students a 3rd pathway which offers a skills-based route to employment or Higher Education. Students will have to choose an academic or occupational pathway at age 16.

For many students this will also limit their choices about where they study as schools and sixth form colleges will find it difficult to deliver the new Technical Levels because of their size and the requirements to deliver them to an industry standard. FE Colleges have received funding to allow them to develop the resources and expertise for these courses, but many have concentrated on a small number in the first instance, meaning that local choices may be limited.

Whilst there is obviously a need to provide high quality, technical education that is designed by employers and delivered in a workplace context, it seems to be being offered at the expense of the huge number of students that prefer to stay at school and follow a less prescriptive route by following a combination of A levels and AGQs or a range of AGQs.

Limiting both the range of qualifications and the places students can study will have the impact of pushing students into courses that are not only unsuitable but will also limit their choices for progression. The government’s own impact assessment has concluded that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have the most to lose if AGQs are defunded, surely too big a risk to take in the aftermath of the covid pandemic?

It is argued that many AGQs have equivalent, duplicate L3 qualifications available and that it is these that are being targeted, however, it should be recognised that 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. Giving students the choice to study these qualifications in settings that suit their needs at age 16 is imperative.

To support the call to reconsider the defunding of AGQs you can:

  • Write to your local MP to secure their support for the campaign
  • Invite local MPs to your school or college
  • School and college leaders can write to parents to secure their support for the campaign
  • Tweet support using the hashtag #ProtectStudentChoice

Further information can be found on the campaign website.

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