'Proper recognition' pledged for vocational education

On vocational results day, education secretary Gavin Williamson insists FE will no longer play 'second fiddle'

Stephen Exley

New education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to 're-energise' free schools

New education secretary Gavin Williamson has vowed that students taking vocational qualifications will receive “proper recognition for their hard work”.

The pledge by Mr Williamson, who describes himself as “the first education secretary to personally take charge of further education and skills”, comes as thousands of students receive their exam results today.

He added that, from 2022, T-level results will be published on the same day as A-level results.

News: BTEC results: Entries rise despite doubts over future

Background: Funding axed for more than 160 level 3 qualifications

Opinon: Lord Baker: 'Preserve choice' by saving BTECs

Figures published by Pearson reveal that almost 250,000 students have completed level 3 BTECs in 2019 so far. The future is uncertain for BTECs and other applied general qualifications, as a consultation on post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below is ongoing.

Celebrating vocational qualifications

However, vocational qualifications have received a higher profile this exam season. For the second year, the BBC is showcasing students getting their results in vocational qualifications, in a move spearheaded by TV presenter Steph McGovern. In November, Ms McGovern told Tes that creating a vocational results day had been "probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done on telly".

In a lengthy statement published this morning ahead of A-level results being released on Thursday, Mr Williamson said that “getting a good set of A levels and then a degree is only half the story”.

He added: “As the first education secretary to personally take charge of further education and skills, I’m going to make sure that those people who opt to take a technical or vocational qualification are given the proper recognition for their hard work.

“Some people will be getting their technical and vocational results today – and from next year, students finishing their GCSEs will be able to take one of our new T levels as a high-quality technical course that will carry the same Ucas points equivalent to three of our world-class A levels.

“Young people and their parents can be confident that T levels will be just as stretching as their academic equivalents and will offer progression to the next level whether that is landing a great job, an apprenticeship or going on to do a degree. As the technical ‘gold standard’ option for young people post-16, T-level results will be also be published on the same day as A levels from 2022."

FE: 'Second fiddle' for too long

Mr Williamson continued: “But it doesn’t stop there. We are continuing to work with employers to raise the profile of and to create more exciting, high-quality apprenticeship opportunities. We are also reviewing other post-16 qualifications so young people can be confident that whatever option they choose after their GCSEs they will be high-quality, and will set them on a clear path to a job, further education or training.

“Technical and vocational educational has played second fiddle to traditional academic options for too long. In three years’ time, the look and feel of results day will be very different, with students getting their T-level results celebrating their hard work alongside those getting their A levels.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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