Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, is one of 118 MPs and peers that has written to the recently-appointed Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi urging him to make an “early reassessment” of the Department for Education’s plan to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs.
The letter was sent to support the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign, a coalition of 21 organisations that represent and support students and staff in schools, colleges and universities.
In July, the Department confirmed plans to introduce a twin-track system of A levels and T levels (a new suite of technical qualifications), where most young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, funding for most BTEC qualifications will be removed.
In their letter to the Education Secretary, the MPs and peers say this new system “will leave many students without a viable pathway after their GCSEs, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds” and report concerns from the education sector that “removing the vast majority of BTECs will lead to students taking courses that do not meet their needs, or dropping out of education altogether”. The parliamentarians welcome the introduction of T levels but say that “it is not necessary to remove applied general qualifications to make T levels a success” and that it is “perfectly possible for both to co-exist with A levels in the future qualifications landscape”.
Under current proposals, larger BTEC qualifications (equivalent in size to 2 or 3 A levels) will be scrapped if the government deems they “overlap” with A levels or T levels. But the MPs and peers call for the option to study BTECs to be retained as 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”.
The letter concludes by urging the Secretary of State to “recalibrate” plans to move to a two-route model of A levels and T levels and asks for an assurance that “students will continue to have the choice to study a wide range of applied general qualifications in the future”.
Commenting on the letter Andrew Gwynne said:
I’m really proud to have joined this coalition of cross-party MPs urging the Government to reassess its plans to remove funding for the vast majority of BTEC qualifications.
I took the BTEC route myself (National Certificate and Higher National Diploma) and know first-hand how vital these qualifications are. Removing funding for these kind of qualifications would really limit the options for so many students across the country.
If we are serious about levelling up, we need to make sure that students are given viable options that suit their needs to pursue higher education. I implore the Government to listen to educational leaders and students and protect student choice.
Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, that is co-ordinating the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign said:
“It is telling that so many MPs and peers have joined such a broad coalition of educational bodies to support the campaign to Protect Student Choice. There are few issues that could engender such strength of feeling and such commonality of purpose; the removal of BTECs represents a hammer blow for social mobility, the skills gap and the economy.
It is also telling that those who campaign to Protect Student Choice welcome the introduction of T Levels and are determined to see them succeed. But T Levels and BTECs are different: they serve a different purpose for a different audience. As such, they could and should co-exist in the qualifications landscape.”