Plans to start removing funding for most BTECs and other applied general qualifications from 2023 will be delayed by a year, the education secretary has announced.
Nadhim Zahawi told MPs during the second reading of the skills and post-16 education bill in the House of Commons this evening that the reforms will be slowed-down.
It means that qualifications affected by the cull will now not be defunded until 2024 at the earliest, compared to the original plan of 2023.
“I am clear that T-levels and A-levels should be front and centre of the level 3 landscape,” Zahawi told MPs.
“But I am also convinced that we need other qualifications alongside them – many of which currently exist – that play a valuable role in supporting good outcomes for students.”
He added that it was “quite likely we will see many BTECs and other similar applied general style qualifications continuing to play an important role in 16 to 19 education, for the foreseeable future”.
“Our reforms to the qualifications landscape are rightly ambitious, but we know that we would be wrong to push too hard and risk compromising quality. That is why I am announcing today that we have decided to allow an extra year before our reform timetable is implemented.”
Zahawi added that this extra year will “allow us to continue to work hard to support the growth of T-levels and gives more notice to providers, awarding organisations, employers, students and parents so that they can prepare for the changes”.
T-level English and maths exit rules relaxed
The education secretary also announced that that exit requirements for English and maths in T-levels will be relaxed.
He said this was because the Department for Education hears consistently that some students are being put off taking a T-level “because they are worried that they will fail it if they do not reach level 2 in English and maths”.
“I can also announce today that we will remove the English and maths exit requirement from T-levels,” he told MPs.
“This will bring them in line with other qualifications, including A-levels, and ensure talented young people with more diverse strengths are not arbitrarily shut out from rewarding careers in sectors such as construction, catering and health-care. The Institute [for Apprenticeships] is taking immediate steps towards this.”
Following a two-stage level 3 and below review, launched in March 2019, the DfE announced last July it would strip public funding from “poor quality” qualifications which overlap with T Levels or A-levels.
The department’s response to the review consultation revealed that BTEC qualifications would become “rare” once it begins phasing in a new “streamlined” system for level 3 courses from 2023.
Today’s announcement will be seen as a win for the Protect Student Choice campaign, a coalition of FE and skills sector organisations led by the Sixth Form Colleges Association, which has been calling for the plans to be reversed or at least slowed down.