Vocational Education: North West

Department for Education written question – answered on 22nd October 2021.

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Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Shadow Minister (Home Office), Deputy national campaign co-ordinator, Deputy National Campaign Co-ordinator

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect on levels of inequality in the North West region of the withdrawal of funding for certain BTEC qualifications.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We set out the qualifications we intend to fund alongside A levels and T Levels at level 3 in July 2021. We will continue to fund some BTECs and other Applied General qualifications (AGQs) in future, and these qualifications will continue to play an important role for 16 to 19 year olds and adults as they do now.

Whilst we want clearer, simpler choices for students, we are not moving towards a binary system of just A levels and T Levels. Students will continue to be able to study BTECs and other AGQs as part of mixed programmes alongside A levels, where they meet new quality standards and support progression to higher education, for example in areas such as engineering, applied science and IT. Students will also be able to study qualifications like BTECs as their full programme of study where there is no A level or T Level, in areas such as performing and creative arts and sports science.

T Levels are challenging qualifications developed with 250 leading employers, have significantly longer teaching hours and include a meaningful nine-week industry placement that sets them apart from many current vocational qualifications. We believe that it is the right thing to do to remove funding for technical qualifications that overlap with T Levels when they become nationally available. However, whilst we want clearer, simpler choices for students, we are not creating a binary system of just A levels and T Levels and will continue to fund qualifications such as BTECs and other AGQs in a number of areas. These include performing and creative arts, sport, health, and STEM subjects such as engineering, applied science, and IT.

The impact assessment published alongside our final plans in July recognised that at a national level some students may find it more difficult to achieve level 3 in future, but we expect these changes to have a generally positive impact. We are clear that students taking qualifications that are no longer funded in future will have the most to gain from these changes because they are more likely to be taking qualifications that do not deliver the skills employers need. These students will have access to higher quality qualifications in the future, including new T Levels, putting them in a stronger position to progress onto further study or skilled employment.

Alongside our reforms to level 3 qualifications, we want to improve study at level 2 and below, which has been neglected for too long. Getting level 2 and below right is key to making sure that every student has a clear progression route, whether that is to high quality level 3 qualifications, apprenticeships, traineeships, or directly into skilled employment at level 2. We are considering feedback to the call for evidence which ran from 10 November 2020 to 14 February 2021 and will consult on proposals for reform later this year.

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