The former Conservative education secretary Kenneth Baker has described the government’s overhaul of vocational and technical qualifications at schools and colleges in England as “an act of vandalism”.
Lord Baker, who initiated controversial school changes under Margaret Thatcher, said he opposed the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to scrap most applied general qualifications such as BTecs in favour of its new T-levels, which will leave students aged 16 with few alternatives to A-levels. The qualification is designed to be a single two-year course focused on a specific career such as accounting, building services or hair and beauty.
“This is an act of educational vandalism. BTecs have been established for decades and they are internationally recognised. They are a particular help to disadvantaged young people,” said Baker.
He argued that 44% of white working-class students who go on to university study at least one BTec and 37% of black students access higher education with only BTec qualifications, which are recognised by universities as equivalent to A-levels.
He hinted that he would back amendments to the government’s skills bill in the Lords to delay or overturn the DfE’s plans to stop funding many BTec courses from 2022 and abolish most of them by 2023.
“If the government persists with this policy, there will be an opportunity when the skills bill reaches its report stage in the House of Lords in October for amendments to be tabled with all-party support, including some Conservatives, to ensure that these technical qualifications are not abolished until employers are satisfied that the T-levels are sufficiently practical for the needs of their employees,” Baker said.
約 260,000 sixth formers and college students in England take BTecs and other applied level 3 qualifications, which combine vocational or technical modules with classroom learning. 約 470,000 students take A-levels, with a proportion taking a mix of the two qualifications. 現在 1,700 are enrolled in T-level courses, which were launched last year.
Baker’s comments came as a group of 12 organisations representing schools, colleges and universities wrote to the education secretary, ゲイビンウィリアムソン, urging him to retain BTecs and similar level 3 alternatives to A-levels, arguing that scrapping them could “do huge damage to social mobility”.
The letter, signed by the Grammar School Heads Association and the Association of School and College Leaders, 言う: “It is impossible to square the government’s stated ambition to ‘level up’ opportunity with the proposal to scrap most BTecs.”
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said BTecs were a vital alternative for students unable to take academic A-levels because of poor GCSE grades but unwilling to take a single two-year T-level course.
Kewin said he feared that without BTecs as a more flexible option, too many 16- and 17-year-olds would drop out of full-time education. “I can’t think of a more damaging proposal in post-16 education in the last 10 年,” Kewin said.
“We currently have a successful three-route model of A-levels, technical qualifications including the new T-levels, and applied qualifications such as BTecs that combine practical skills with academic learning.
“There will continue to be a need for these qualifications to sit between A-levels and T-levels. For many young people, particularly disadvantaged young people, BTecs provide a much more effective route to higher education or employment.”
The DfE defended the changes, saying they would “simplify and streamline the current system, ensuring that all qualifications are fit for purpose, are high-quality and lead to good outcomes.
“We are putting employers at the heart of the skills system and boosting the quality of qualifications on offer so that all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, leave education with the skills employers need.”
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