Despite numerous calls to reverse the plan, education secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Government will go ahead with proposals to defund BTEC courses as part of scheduled reforms to Britain’s further education system.
An estimated 259,291 young people are set to be affected by the Department for Education’s decision, which involves phasing out BTECs in favour of T-Levels, the new, two-year technical courses which are the equivalent of three A-Levels.
A letter signed by twelve national educational organisations urges the government to reconsider. The letter states that the move to scrap BTECs is “reckless”, citing a government equalities impact assessment that was done on the proposed reforms which found that “disadvantaged students have the most to lose”.
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The organisations describe BTECs as “engines for social mobility”, referring to research done by the Social Market Foundation which found 44% of working-class white students started university with at least one BTEC qualification and 37% of black students enrolled with BTECs alone.
This is not the first time Gavin Williamson has faced criticism for his ideas, the South Staffordshire MP defended his plans and said: “These reforms will simplify and streamline the current system, ensuring that whatever qualification a young person or an adult chooses, they can be confident that it will be high-quality and will lead to good outcomes.”
What is BTEC and which ones are getting scrapped?
BTECs are vocational further education courses taken after GCSEs. They span a range of subjects and are designed to provide work-based skills in areas including health and social care, engineering and the creative arts.
In total 76 BTEC qualifications will have their funding withdrawn. Amongst the courses facing the axe are diplomas in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Performing Arts, Sport and Exercise Sciences, IT, Engineering, Business, Agriculture, Construction and Child Development.
When will T-Level qualifications be introduced?
The Department of Education have confirmed that, following consultation with educators, students and parents, the new system will be phased in in the two years between 2023 and 2025.
In this time, BTECs will be gradually shelved to make room for a new system which exclusively involves apprenticeships, A-Levels and T-Levels.
Deputy Chief of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, James Kerwin, 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.”
Dr Patrick Roach, the general secretary for NASUWT teaching union agrees, and said: “We should be expanding the pathways for young people to succeed and flourish, not closing them off.”