Stand-alone BTEC to be abolished by 2024
On Monday 18th July 2022, the UK parliament debated the UK government’s reforms of British education which will now focus on moving forward with a two-track A Level and T Level based British curriculum in schools and the removal of BTEC, in most cases, as a stand-alone subject pathway for students.
BTECs will, from 2024, play a marginal role as a qualification that can be studied only with A Levels, be studied by mature students who have left school – or, in rare circumstances, be studied where no A Level or T Level exists in the same area of study.
The debate followed a petition that the government should u-turn in its plans to defund, and effectively abolish, BTEC qualifications from more than 108,000 people. Because the number of petitioners exceeded 100,000, the government was forced to debate the issue.
The following is a summary of the UK government’s plans for BTEC that were confirmed during the debate, and of the views of those that opposed them and wish to retain the choice for students to study for A Levels, BTECs and T Levels.
What the eventual transformation of British education to focus on a two track system of T Levels (T-levels) and A Levels will mean for British curriculum schools in the UAE and internationally remains to be seen. Many T Level subjects require significant infrastructure that many schools will struggle to provide – and very significant partnerships with industry which, again, are not in place in the vast majority of UAE schools.
Worrying for many, the debate also raised questions about the future shape of A Levels in British schools as the government confirms that A Levels too will be reviewed with a new focus on funding only qualifications that lead to employment and “good outcomes.” This follows recent decisions by some universities to end the degree level study of English on the basis that it did not lead to “good” job outcomes or opportunities for students historically.
The abolition of BTEC as a stand-alone qualification in British schools – full facts, timelines… and what limited BTEC options will survive.
“To me, [moving forward] the most important thing is the outcome of all qualifications [A Levels, T-levels, BTEC]. If people can have better quality and higher paying jobs, that is a better start in life than taking courses that do not have the same outcomes.
We will strengthen and clarify progression routes for A Level academic qualifications, to ensure that every funded qualification has a clear purpose—that is vital—is of high quality and could lead to good outcomes.
[For all qualifications now] the most important outcome is that the qualifications give students a decent start in life and good-quality jobs. To me, the most important thing is the outcome, as I have said. If people can have better quality and higher paying jobs, that is a better start in life than taking courses that do not have the same outcomes.
T-levels are a critical step in the quality of the technical offer. They have been co-designed with more than 250 leading employers and are based on the best international examples of technical education. But these reforms will have their full benefit only if we streamline and address the complexities and variable quality of the broader level 3 qualifications [like BTEC.]
We are not withdrawing funding for all BTECs. Students will be able to take BTECs and applied general qualifications alongside A-levels, as part of a mixed programme, where those qualifications meet the new quality and other criteria.
We are unashamed about raising the quality of technical education in this country. Students will benefit from the reforms because they will take qualifications that are high quality and meet the needs of employers, putting them in a strong position to progress to further study or skilled employment.
Andrea Jenkyns, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, UK Government, July 2022.
- BTEC Level 3 qualifications are being reformed – there will be no U-turning from this.
- The current British curriculum is “too complicated.” Current qualifications are of “variable quality” and do not serve the interests of students or employers.
- T Levels, not BTECs, are the primary technical stream qualification moving forward and will be the qualification of choice for 16 to 19-year-olds, alongside A-levels.
- Moving forward the British curriculum will focus on a twin-track system based on A-levels and T-levels.
- T Levels will drive up productivity because they have been designed in conjunction with employers to meet their needs. They will lead to jobs, so meet the needs of students.
- T Levels “will raise the quality and prestige” of technical education to match academic A Levels and will “ensure that young people develop knowledge and skills that hold genuine labour market currency.”
- From now on, every funded qualification in British education must (1) have a clear purpose, (2) be of high quality; and, (3) must lead to good outcomes for students.
- All qualifications now must be able to show “importantly, where that qualification will take them.”
- Qualifications that do not meet this requirement will be defunded and not supported by the British government.
- Only a limited number of BTEC and other qualifications will remain and these few will “fit into the future landscape alongside A-levels and T-levels.” The first will be qualifications in areas where there is not a T-level. One example is the International Baccalaureate Diploma which will still be funded. The second will be specialist qualifications targeted on mature students, not those at school between 16 years and 19 years of age. .
- Reforms are being made in three stages:
- Stage 1: BTECs and other currently funded qualifications that have low or no enrolments will be abolished. “Around 5,500 qualifications at level 3 have lower currently have low or no enrolments, and will therefore have funding removed by August 2022.”
- Stage 2: Funding will be removed for all BTECs and other qualifications that overlap with T-levels by 2024. “All qualifications that are technical, share the same curriculum focus as a T-level and cover the same employment trajectory will be defunded.
- Stage 3: Reform of all remaining qualifications not defunded by this point – including strengthening and clarifying progression routes for A Levels.
- The final list of BTEC qualifications that will have public funding withdrawn will be published in September 2022.
- BTEC qualifications will only be retained where they are needed to support progression into occupations that are not covered by T-levels.
- Students will only be able to take applied general style qualifications, including BTECs, only alongside A-levels, as part of a mixed programme where they meet the new quality and necessity criteria. Examples are BTECs with a practical or occupational focus, such as health and social care or STEM subjects including as engineering, applied science and IT.
- Level 3 BTEC qualifications will only be retained in the rare circumstances where there are no A-levels and no equivalent T-level. Examples night be areas that are “less served by A-levels, such as performing arts, creative arts or sports science, where they give access to HE courses with high levels of practical content.”
- As of July 2022, there are10 T-levels available at over 100 providers in the UK. By 2023, all T-levels will be available with 400 providers offering them in the UK.
- In future, all young people in schools must learn about “the exciting, high-quality opportunities that technical education and apprenticeships can offer.” The Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 strengthens the law so that all pupils must have the opportunity for six high quality encounters with providers of technical education qualifications and apprenticeships as they progress through school in years 8 to 13.
- The UK government “continues to engage with Oxford and Cambridge [universities] on accepting T-levels, so watch this space.”
- No date is provided when T-level qualifications will be made available internationally, including to students in the UAE.
The arguments against the abolition of BTEC
“This is an act of educational vandalism. BTECs have been established for decades and they are internationally recognised.”
Lord Kenneth Baker. Former Conservative Member of Parliament and Secretary of Education.
“These are people’s lives, future and opportunities to get on in life. Quite often, they are lifelines. I speak from experience. After failing my GCSEs, as a working-class 16-year-old with a difficult background, it was a BTEC in the Performing Arts that got me back into education and, ultimately, to university. It made me excited about education again. A BTEC was my second chance.”
Vicky Foxcroft. Member of Parliament Lewisham. Shadow Secretary of State for Pensions.
“With BTEC, we have a proven qualification in many subjects that provides value for everyone—students and employers. Qualifications such as BTEC are taken close to the point at which many students are likely to enter work. They are relatively more important than A-levels to young people who are not going to university, as they prepare students well for work immediately, whereas university students have another three or four years before facing career-level employers for the first time after graduating.
We should end the situation in which young people take GCSEs, which are only a milestone in their education, before moving into a confused offer of A-levels, T-levels and whatever other limited qualifications remain after this review. We need a vocational path alongside T-levels. All the commissions that have published on this subject agree that our assessment system is no longer fit for purpose.”
Flick Drummond. Member of Parliament Meon Valley. Former Secretary of State for International Development.
The arguments against abolishing BTEC