Kenneth Baker: plan to scrap BTecs is an act of vandalism

The previous Conservative schooling secretary Kenneth Baker has described the federal government’s overhaul of vocational and technical {qualifications} at faculties and faculties in England as “an act of vandalism”.

Lord Baker, who initiated controversial college adjustments underneath Margaret Thatcher, mentioned he opposed the Division for Training’s (DfE) plans to scrap most utilized basic {qualifications} resembling BTecs in favour of its new T-levels, which can go away college students aged 16 with few alternate options to A-levels. The qualification is designed to be a single two-year course targeted on a selected profession resembling accounting, constructing providers or hair and wonder.

“That is an act of academic vandalism. BTecs have been established for many years and they’re internationally recognised. They’re a selected assist to deprived younger individuals,” mentioned Baker.

He argued that 44% of white working-class college students who go on to school research no less than one BTec and 37% of black college students entry increased schooling with solely BTec {qualifications}, that are recognised by universities as equal to A-levels.

He hinted that he would again amendments to the federal government’s abilities invoice within the Lords to delay or overturn the DfE’s plans to cease funding many BTec programs from 2022 and abolish most of them by 2023.

“If the federal government persists with this coverage, there will likely be a possibility when the abilities invoice reaches its report stage within the Home of Lords in October for amendments to be tabled with all-party help, together with some Conservatives, to make sure that these technical {qualifications} usually are not abolished till employers are glad that the T-levels are sufficiently sensible for the wants of their workers,” Baker mentioned.

About 260,000 sixth formers and school college students in England take BTecs and different utilized degree 3 {qualifications}, which mix vocational or technical modules with classroom studying. Roughly 470,000 college students take A-levels, with a proportion taking a mixture of the 2 {qualifications}. At the moment 1,700 are enrolled in T-level programs, which had been launched final yr.

Baker’s feedback got here as a bunch of 12 organisations representing faculties, faculties and universities wrote to the schooling secretary, Gavin Williamson, urging him to retain BTecs and comparable degree 3 alternate options to A-levels, arguing that scrapping them might “do enormous harm to social mobility”.

The letter, signed by the Grammar Faculty Heads Affiliation and the Affiliation of Faculty and School Leaders, says: “It’s unattainable to sq. the federal government’s acknowledged ambition to ‘degree up’ alternative with the proposal to scrap most BTecs.”

James Kewin, deputy chief govt of the Sixth Type Colleges Affiliation, mentioned BTecs had been an important different for college kids unable to take tutorial A-levels due to poor GCSE grades however unwilling to take a single two-year T-level course.

Kewin mentioned he feared that with out BTecs as a extra versatile choice, too many 16- and 17-year-olds would drop out of full-time schooling. “I can’t consider a extra damaging proposal in post-16 schooling within the final 10 years,” Kewin mentioned.

“We presently have a profitable three-route mannequin of A-levels, technical {qualifications} together with the brand new T-levels, and utilized {qualifications} resembling BTecs that mix sensible abilities with tutorial studying.

“There’ll proceed to be a necessity for these {qualifications} to take a seat between A-levels and T-levels. For a lot of younger individuals, notably deprived younger individuals, BTecs present a way more efficient path to increased schooling or employment.”

The DfE defended the adjustments, saying they’d “simplify and streamline the present system, making certain that every one {qualifications} are match for objective, are high-quality and result in good outcomes.

“We’re placing employers on the coronary heart of the abilities system and boosting the standard of {qualifications} on provide so that every one college students, together with these from deprived backgrounds, go away schooling with the abilities employers want.”

The grime artist Stormzy has continued his efforts to enhance social mobility by pledging to help an extra 30 black college students to review on the College of Cambridge. The scholars will obtain a £20,000 annual scholarship to cowl tuition charges and upkeep prices for 3 years.

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