The government has asked for views on withdrawing public funding from qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds that overlap with either A-levels or the new T-levels. Promoted as a progressive policy, it could have severe implications for the BTEC courses long established in sixth forms and colleges.
More than 200,000 16 to 18-year-olds study BTEC courses every year, often studying in combination with an A-level. BTECs grew in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s as post-16 participation rates increased. But rather than just leading to employment, BTECs provided opportunities for thousands to progress to HE – particularly the ‘new’ universities of the 1990s.
While there’s evidence that BTEC students perform less well at degree level than those who followed the A-level route, this says more about the changing nature of post-16 students, than the qualifications themselves. Besides, the old style coursework assessed BTEC qualifications, loved by many teachers no longer exists. Students on construction courses for example, are now required to study trigonometry and Pythagoras, with new Ofqual rules ( part of Michael Gove’s ‘standards revolution’ ) requiring a minimum of 25% external assessment. BTECs are now also part of Pearson’s expanding empire.
According to BBC News (June 12th) The Confederation of British Industry has warned the government about prematurely ending funding for existing qualifications. The CBI is right. Over the last twenty years a succession of new vocational qualifications have been introduced at great expense. GNVQs and Specialist Diplomas being the most well known.
For a variety of reasons, all of these have failed to establish themselves as real alternatives to academic education and as result schools and colleges have returned to the BTECs. As previous posts have shown, T-levels have been slammed, before they have even been introduced.
Putting an axe to BTEC will likely reduce opportunities further.