Ending BTECs could lead to students dropping out of education

10 June 2019

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

ASCL has formally responded to a government consultation on the future of qualifications for 16-18 year olds which we are 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 government appears minded 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 first of which are due to be introduced in September 2020.

Our 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 because 13% of students who take Applied General qualifications have special educational needs compared to 4% who take A levels.

And it 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.”

ASCL issued a joint statement with the Sixth Form Colleges Association in March in which we said: “Applied General qualifications are tried and tested, and recognised by universities and employers. It would be rash and reckless to scrap these qualifications in favour of T levels which are untried and untested.”