More than 150 level 3 qualifications – including 38 BTECs – that compete with the government’s new T Level courses are set to be axed from 2024.
The Department for Education has finally published the first provisional list (see the full list below) of qualifications that overlap with the first ten T-levels and face being defunded.
In total, 160 vocational and technical qualifications are set to be lost in two years’ time. The DfE said this is out of 2,000 existing courses in that space, meaning just 8 per cent will be cut.
Pearson has the most courses on the axe list (41 including 38 BTECs), followed by City & Guilds (36) and then NCFE (19).
An impact assessment report published alongside the list shows there are currently 66,000 enrolments on the courses, 27 per cent of which are students deemed to be the “most disadvantaged”.
There are 662,000 level 3 enrolments for 16-to-19-year-olds nationally – meaning one in ten will be impacted.
Sector leaders said they were pleased only a small proportion of level 3 qualifications in today’s list. However, the DfE does not publish enrolments by individual qualification, so it is difficult to judge how popular each course is.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association said the BTEC diploma in health and social care – one of the qualifications set to be axed – is “enormously popular and well respected by universities and employers” and the impact of its removal “will be felt by a significant number of young people”.
Awarding bodies have been given until July 8 to challenge the government’s decision to defund any of the qualifications on the 2024 axe list. The final list will be confirmed in September.
More of the courses, which include tech levels, technical certificates and applied generals like Pearson’s popular BTECs, will be canned from 2025 and 2026 where the DfE deems they overlap with T-levels and A-levels.
T-levels are the government’s flagship new technical qualifications and sit alongside their academic equivalent A-levels.
Ten T-levels have been rolled out so far in four sectors: construction, digital, education and childcare and health and science. Thirteen more T-level subjects will be launched between September 2022 and 2023.
Cull will ‘help end confusion and complexity’
Following a level 3 review, the DfE announced plans in July 2021 to strip public funding from thousands of “poor quality” qualifications, which allegedly leave young people and employers “confused”, where they overlap with T-levels or A-levels.
The department’s response to the review consultation stated BTEC qualifications would become “rare” once it begins phasing in a new “streamlined” system for level 3 courses, initially planned to begin from 2023.
But education secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced in November he would delay the cull by a year following pressure from the Protect Student Choice campaign, which is led by the Sixth Form Colleges Association and has high-profile political backing from the likes of Lord Blunkett.
Amid concern that the majority of level 3 courses would be defunded under the plans, Zahawi wrote to members of the House of Lords last month to promise that “significantly less than half” of the qualifications would be included in the cull.
Skills minister Alex Burghart said today that retiring qualifications that overlap with “new, more rigorous qualifications has long been standard practice with academic qualifications” and will “help end the confusion and complexity we know puts some young people off studying technical options”.
Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, said he recognised that ministers have listened to sector calls to “proceed with more caution” and ensure “there is a place in the future landscape for level 3 qualifications which have a proven track record of getting students into skilled jobs or progression to further and higher education”.