Shadow Further Education & Skills Minister and Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has given his backing to the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign to stop the government axing BTECs.

Toby is one of 118 MPs and peers that have written to the recently-appointed Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi urging him to make an “early reassessment” of the Department for Education’s plan to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs.

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 the vast majority of BTEC qualifications will be removed.

The letter was sent by the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign, a coalition of 21 organisations that represent and support students and staff in schools, colleges and universities.

In their letter to the Education Secretary, MPs and peers say this new system “will leave many students without a viable pathway after their GCSEs, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds” and report concerns from the education sector that “removing the vast majority of BTECs will lead to students taking courses that do not meet their needs, or dropping out of education altogether”.

As Shadow FE & Skills Minister, Toby has directly challenged the government about this issue, raising the matter during Education Questions with then Education Minister Gillian Keegan. Toby asked the Minister how she could justify removing funding from courses which 230,000 students had taken this year, quoting former Education Secretary Lord Baker who described the move as ‘educational vandalism’.

Toby said: “It is clear that the government have got this decision wrong and the cross-party support that this campaign has attracted illustrates that. There are former Education Secretaries, senior Conservative MPs and Peers alongside current Shadow Ministers and Opposition spokespeople. 86% of those working in FE and Skills who responded to the Department for Education’s consultation oppose these proposals – I believe this shows the need for Ministers to think again and listen to the sector.

T Levels are unproven and are still in the pilot stage. Doubts persist about whether in their current form they will be able to attract the amount of work experience placements required and how widely available they will be, a major decision like scrapping BTECs shouldn’t be taken until the government have resolved the existing doubts about T levels and proved that they work.”.

Under current proposals, large numbers of BTEC qualifications will be scrapped if the government deems they “overlap” with A levels or T levels. But the MPs and peers call for the option to study BTECs to be retained as they “are a different type of qualification that provide a different type of educational experience – one that combines the development of skills with academic learning”.

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”.

Toby Perkins MP
Toby Perkins MP
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