Btecs: Level 3 qualification reforms to be announced by DfE

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Learning, A and T levels will become the main options for progression after GCSEs, the government said today.

In a statement released this morning, the education ministry said it would “shake up” the education system after 16 years to remove low-quality qualifications that lack job prospects. The new system will be phased in between 2023 and 2025.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “As we recover from the pandemic, there can be no room in our education system for second-rate qualifications. Good qualifications are essential to help everyone, regardless of age or background, get a good job and achieve their ambitions.

“These reforms will simplify and streamline the current system, ensuring that whatever qualification a young person or an adult chooses, they can be sure that it will be of high quality and lead to good results.”


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In March 2019, the DfE opened a consultation on level 3 certifications, affirming its desire to remove any “poor quality post-16 qualification”. In August 2020, the DfE removed funding for over 160 duplicate certifications, and in August 2021, funding for 2,200 more will be removed, and no new level 3 and below certifications will be approved for funding.

The full response to the consultation is expected later this morning, and the full list of deleted qualifications will be confirmed by the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.

In today’s announcement, the DfE said: “There are currently over 4,000 level 3 certifications approved for government funding, with multiple qualifications in the same fields available – many of which are of poor quality and offer little value to students or employers.

“This includes over 200 engineering qualifications, over 200 building and construction qualifications and 15 plumbing qualifications, ranging from 170 hours of apprenticeship courses to over 1,800 hours. In comparison, countries with high performing technical education systems such as Germany and Switzerland offer less than 500 technical qualifications in total.

Reforms of level 3 certifications: the concerns of the sector

The Level 3 consultation raised concerns across the industry, with many warning against removing Btec and Cambridge Nationals in favor of offering learners a binary choice between A and T levels.

Speaking on the announcement today, David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, urged the government to reconsider its plan for funding qualifications, and said more time was needed for levels T are established before any successful existing qualification can be funded.

He said: “If the government is serious about leveling up, it must slow down this major reform and recognize the risks for thousands of young people. We are big supporters of T-levels because they have the potential to improve the reputation and standard of technical education if implemented correctly, alongside other qualifications. Colleges want to offer them and employers are starting to understand and accept them. Together with the colleges, this reform would be a success, so it’s hard to see why the Education Department is using a hammer to crack a nut.

“We don’t need a tough approach to force change – change will happen. This approach risks leaving thousands of disadvantaged students with limited or no pathways to progress to work or continuing education when they need it most.

“We urge the DfE to take a moment, work with the college sector, and create a new rollout plan that ensures T-Levels are successful, without inadvertently disadvantaging thousands of already disadvantaged students in their quest for speed. This will ensure that all students from all parts of the country are able to find the right course for them and their aspirations. Collaboration, not confrontation, working with rather than doing for.

Bill Watkin, CEO of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “The proposals presented today have the potential to be extremely damaging to the prospects and life chances of young people in England. It is clear that the government intends to wipe out the vast majority of general applied qualifications such as Btec, and students will only be able to study A or T levels from the age of 16.

“But for many young people, studying a Btec degree will be a much more effective route to higher education or skilled employment. Closing this route means that thousands of students will find themselves without a viable route after completing their GCSE – that is, is bad for young people, bad for social mobility and bad for the economy. We will continue to work with the 10 educational organizations in the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign to get the government to rethink these simplistic and regressive proposals. “

Last month, 11 educational organizations, including the SFCA, joined forces to urge the government to rethink plans for reimburse the BTECs. Education bodies, including the NEU teachers’ union and the Association of School and College Leaders, have said cutting Btec funding will leave many students without a viable pathway by age 16.

Tom Bewick, Executive Director of the Federation of Awards Organizations, said: “Despite all the responses to the consultations that the Ministry of Education has received, it is disappointing that the government continues to focus on the number of regulated qualifications, instead of supporting diversity of courses and genuine career options. for young people over 16 years old.

“The federation has always supported the need for a household exercise and to abolish the L3 qualifications which are obsolete or no longer have a certificate. But the idea in a UK economy, with over 75,000 different jobs currently available, that the number of available skills can be reduced to a handful is fanciful. If policy makers listened to parents, learners and college community leaders, as much as employers, they would know.

“The result of this particular review is taking the country in the wrong direction. It will not help to level up in parts of England and it will mean fewer opportunities for disadvantaged learners in the future. “

We know that the post-war tripartite education experience has failed and this latest government approach, although it is a follow-up approach to 16-year-old learners, also has the potential to fail. . As the former distinguished Secretary of State for Education, Lord Baker, recently said: What the government is proposing here looks like a form of “educational apartheid”. Frankly, learners deserve better.


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