Ending BTECs could lead to students dropping out, warns ASCL

The ASCL has warned that ending BTEC funding in favour of A and T levels could prove detrimental to the education of certain pupils

Scrapping BTECs risks leading to more young people dropping out of education, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has warned.

ASCL has formally responded to a government consultation on the future of qualifications for 16-18 year-olds which it is concerned will lead to the end of applied generals – the most-well known of which are BTECs – to clear the way for the government’s flagship policy of T levels.

Applied generals are taken by around 200,000 students each year. They are vocational qualifications which leave open to young people the opportunity to pursue academic or technical routes post-18.

However, the ASCL fears that the government is planning to remove funding for these qualifications and insist that 16-year-olds must instead study either the academic route of A levels, or the technical route of T levels.

The ASCL’s consultation response says: “Forcing students down a path of either A levels or T levels at age 16 does not give a greater guarantee of progress towards a student’s ‘intended outcome’. On the contrary, our view is that this risks leading to more students dropping out of education altogether.

“Adopting a middle ground of an applied route that sits between academic and technical routes is, in our view, likely to result in better outcomes for the cohort at level 3 than presenting all students with a binary choice between an academic or a technical route.”

It also warns that scrapping BTECs could have a disproportionate impact on students with special educational needs; 13% of students who take applied general qualifications have special educational needs compared to four per cent who take A levels.

The ASCL’s response concludes: “Consideration must also be given to the impact of these changes on the thousands of people who have undertaken qualifications that may now be considered worthless, or no longer understood over time by employers.”

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