Scrapping applied general qualifications would be "rash and reckless", according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA).
The qualification is taken by more than 200,000 students every year and allows many young people to enter university, according to the ASCL. Restricting student choice by scrapping applied generals, such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals, would not be in the interest of learners, it added.
Read more: DfE launches crackdown on post-16 courses
Consultation on post-16 qualifications
Earlier this month, the government launched a consultation on applied generals, stating that A levels, the new T levels and apprenticeships would be the “gold standard”, with all other qualifications, except GCSEs, in the scope of the review.
The ASCL said applied general qualifications were tried and tested, and recognised by universities and employers. "It would be rash and reckless to scrap these qualifications in favour of T levels, which are untried and untested," it added.
Speaking to Tes at the time, skills minister Anne Milton said: "All qualifications are up for grabs – it is a good time to do this. In terms of classroom-based, we want A levels and T levels, and the work-based option is apprenticeships."
However, she acknowledged that, with the broad range of learners taking part in post-16 education, including students with additional support needs, there was a need for additional qualifications. "We will be mindful that there needs to be a suite of qualifications," Ms Milton said.
Geoff Barton (pictured), general secretary of ASCL, said: “We very much hope that T levels are a success. However, that should not be at the expense of a qualification which is proven and popular.
“Sceptics might be inclined to think that the government has spent so much time heralding the advent of T levels that it is now intent on clearing the path of any potential competition.
“T levels should stand on their own merits as an option that attracts students rather than being the only vocational option available to them.”
Important skill set
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the SFCA, said: “Applied general qualifications sit comfortably alongside A levels, helping students get into higher education and employment, and they ensure that young people develop a vitally important set of skills that are highly valued in universities and the workplace.
“The government may see the introduction of T levels as the best way to address the skills gap, about which it is, quite rightly, concerned.
“But this should not be at the expense of applied generals – these qualifications help young people to acquire the skills that our economy and society need and we will be making the strongest possible case to ensure they have a secure future”.