BTEC funding loss ‘will deepen inequality’, warns Tony Lloyd

Rochdale MP, Tony Lloyd, has demanded the Education Minister reassess plans to scrap BTEC qualifications. Young people in Rochdale have used BTEC qualifications to gain access to higher education or skilled employment.

In July, the Department confirmed plans to introduce a twin-track system of A levels and T levels (a new suite of technical qualifications), where most young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, funding for most BTEC qualifications will be removed. Under current proposals, larger BTEC qualifications (equivalent in size to 2 or 3 A levels) will be scrapped if the government deems they “overlap” with A levels or T levels.

Tony said, “Removing these opportunities would prevent social mobility, and drive a coach and horses through the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda by further entrenching inequality.

“Ministers must listen to these very real concerns, and urgently reassess their plans for these qualifications.”

Tony is one of 118 cross-party MPs and Peers that has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi. The letter was sent to support the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign, a coalition of 21 organisations that represent and support students and staff in schools, colleges and universities.

The letter concludes by urging the Secretary of State to “recalibrate” plans to move to a two-route model of A levels and T levels and asks for an assurance that “students will continue to have the choice to study a wide range of applied general qualifications in the future”.

Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, added, “It is telling that so many MPs and peers have joined such a broad coalition of educational bodies to support the campaign to Protect Student Choice.

“There are few issues that could engender such strength of feeling and such commonality of purpose; the removal of BTECs represents a hammer blow for social mobility, the skills gap and the economy.

“It is also telling that those who campaign to Protect Student Choice welcome the introduction of T Levels and are determined to see them succeed. But T Levels and BTECs are different: they serve a different purpose for a different audience. As such, they could and should co-exist in the qualifications landscape.”


Notes to Editors:-

  1. The letter and full list if signatories can be found here and more information about the accompanying #ProtectStudentChoice campaign can be found here.
  2. The Department for Education’s response to the Review of post-16 Qualifications at level 3: second stage can be found hereThe policy statement document reaffirms the Department’s commitment to creating two main pathways at the age of 16: an academic route where most students study A levels to progress to higher education, and a technical route where most students study T levels to progress to skilled employment. The response document states that, with only a small number of exceptions, “Larger academic qualifications (including applied general qualifications larger than one A level) will not be funded if they overlap with T Levels or A levels”. 
  3. The most recent data for participation in education, training and employment in England (end of 2019) shows that 864,304 16 to 18 year olds are studying at Level 3. The majority (55%) are studying A levels only, 19% are studying applied general qualifications such as BTECs (in some cases alongside A levels) and 4% are studying technical qualifications. Because of recent changes to Department for Education performance tables, 22% of students are categorised as studying an ‘Other Level 3’ course. We conservatively estimate that at least half of the students in this group are studying older-style applied general qualifications, which is why they feature in this category. So in total, we estimate that at least 30% of 16 to 18 year olds studying a Level 3 qualification in England are pursuing applied general qualifications such as BTECs – 259,291 young people.