Retain choice in post-16 qualifications, say employers

Survey respondents support retaining applied generals such as BTECs as an option alongside A levels and T levels

Tes Reporter

Retain choice for post-16 students, say employers

Employers believe applied general qualifications as BTECs should not be scrapped, a new survey suggests.

The polling by YouGov, commissioned by BTECs exam board Pearson, found that the majority of respondents supported retaining applied generals as an option alongside A levels and T levels.

A Department for Education consultation on post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below, exploring which qualifications should be retained alongside the “gold standard” A levels, T levels and apprenticeships, closed on Monday. A second stage of the consultation on the plans will follow.

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BTECs 'provide flexibility'

Ofqual, awarding bodies and school and college leaders have already raised concerns about the prospect of applied generals, including Cambridge Technicals, no longer being funded by the DfE.

Writing for Tes, former education secretary Lord Baker of Dorking has also waded into the debate, arguing that the Department for Education should not "destroy what’s already working in our current system".

Of the respondents, 83 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) agreed that students aged 16 should be able to pursue “a range of options including an academic route such as A levels, a career-focused route such as a BTEC, and a more specialised vocational or technical route like the new T levels”. Only 3 per cent disagreed. More than 1,100 learners and 1,000 employers took part in the survey.

When young people were asked for their reaction if they were forced to choose a career path at 16, over three-quarters responded negatively; they said they would feel stressed (28 per cent), frustrated (36 per cent) or wished they had taken more vocational courses to prepare them for options (13 per cent).

Scrapping BTECs 'could hamper progress'

When the businesses were asked what they wanted from jobseekers leaving school, of those that gave a preference 57 per cent wanted an employee with a mixture of academic and professional/vocational skills, and 31 per cent wanted them to have vocational skills only. Only 11 per cent wanted school leavers with academic experience only.  Four-fifths of the respondents had heard of BTECs (80 per cent). 

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK and core markets, said: “While T levels are great for 16-year-olds who already know their chosen occupation, BTEC is ideal for those wanting a career-focused pathway that keeps their options open.

“We have been struck by the number of organisations making the argument about needing to maintain the Pearson BTEC in recent days. And this polling shows that across the country, young people and employers agree. We urge the government to consider the responses to this consultation carefully and not make any decisions during this time of great change for the UK that could hamper the prospects of young people or our economic growth.”

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