A world-class education system: The Advanced British Standard

Our response to the government's consultation  'A world-class education system: The Advanced British Standard'.
ASCL welcomes the interest and focus on the 16-19 age range, a sector which for too long has suffered from severe underfunding and a widening disadvantage gap. ASCL has represented members’ views on post-16 issues to the government on numerous occasions, and we are therefore pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. 

We believe, however, that the approach being consulted on here is fundamentally flawed. It is wrong to use the proposal of a new qualification as a starting point for 16-19 reform. The starting point should be a consultation on the underlying principles of what we want our students to study at the age of 16-19. When these principles are agreed, in consultation with the sector, then the next stage is to look at qualification and assessment structures – of which a qualification like the Advanced British Standard (ABS) may or may not be appropriate. By not undertaking this approach first, and instead trying to make a clunky qualification ‘wrapper’ serve several purposes, the government is putting the cart before the horse. The sector is being consulted on an output (i.e. a qualification) before we have agreed the relevant inputs (what skills, knowledge and areas that we want our young people to learn and know).

The ABS could have represented a pivotal moment in re-imagining the purpose of our 16-19 curriculum. This could have been the opportunity to agree with the profession, and other stakeholders, what most needs to be addressed in the 16-19 space. Unfortunately, this opportunity has been missed. Instead, this consultation pre-determines the areas to be discussed and specifically excludes others (such as GCSE reform).

Our members tell us, with overwhelming unanimity, that the recruitment and retention of sufficient appropriately qualified staff must be the starting point for reform. If this fundamental building block is not in place, then all other proposals stand little chance of being successfully implemented and will not attract the support of the sector.

This challenge is even greater with regard to teachers in FE colleges, where much of the ABS would be delivered. Data from the Association of Colleges shows that the average college has 30 unfilled teaching vacancies. The DfE’s own data shows that, over the past decade, the rate of FE teachers leaving the profession has been significantly higher than for primary and secondary school teachers. This situation has been getting worse, with over half of FE teachers who entered the profession in 2014/15 leaving the sector within five years.*

Full response to consultation

* Workforce data indicates little prospect of staff shortages improving any time soon (NFER)