Don't axe BTECs, say exam boards

A range of qualifications is required to meet a wide range of learner needs, according to Federation of Awarding Bodies

Julia Belgutay

Don't abolish BTECs - continued flexibility on level 3 qualifications is required, says the Federation of Awarding Bodies

Taking “an axe” to qualifications at level 3 and below would be a “retrograde step”, according to the chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies.

In its response to the consultation on the future of applied general qualifications such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals, the federation has insisted that a suite of courses is required.

Chief executive Tom Bewick said young people in future would require more choices available to them than just academic A levels and the planned T levels. “We know from the recent Augar Review report that cuts to youth and adult skills funding have already led to a detrimental impact on social mobility and workplace productivity,” he said.

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BTECs 'provide flexibility'

The FAB has submitted its response to the government’s consultation on post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below – including applied general qualifications like BTECs. The organisation is calling for continued flexibility, rather than a narrowing down to a binary approach with a choice between academic A levels and more vocational T levels.

The response says there needs to be flexibility “in principles and quality criteria to ensure we can continue to design qualifications that meet the needs of a diverse range of learners”. Constraining design and innovation through a prescriptive and rigid set of requirements is not an effective way forward, it stresses, adding: “It is essential to recognise that T levels will not be suitable for all post-16 learners who do not wish to take A levels. A range of options needs to be available to meet a wide range of learner needs and ensure there are real opportunities for social mobility”.

“The crucial lesson from this first stage consultation is the need for flexibility,” said Mr Bewick. “FAB is encouraged by the response of our members and other sector leaders who have stressed the importance of continuing with a learner pathway that sees applied general qualifications sitting alongside A levels and T levels. We also need to continue to fund a range of qualifications that meet the needs of adult learners and those with special educational needs.

“In making funding decisions about which qualifications to publicly support, the government should listen to our calls for greater transparency in decision-making by ensuring that there is more of an independent mechanism for both informing and challenging qualification funding decisions in future. We simply won’t allow a situation where life-changing, bureaucratic decisions are made behind closed doors without any reference to fully understanding the complex needs of learners, employers and the wider economy.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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