The Education Committee has announced its disappointment at the way that the government has responded to a report into the future of post-16 qualifications.
Looking into the qualifications, the report called on government ministers to review over Further Education funding, as well as pausing its withdrawal of the technical qualifications that would be replaced by T Levels.
This follows the Department for Education’s plans to defund Applied General Qualifications, citing the poor record of meeting the needs of industry and not enabling graduates to gain jobs in related subjects. These AGQs include qualifications such as BTECs and are set to be replaced by T Levels.
The report from the cross-party Education Committee included findings such as:
- Concerns that too few young people and employers are aware of T Levels, with research from 2021 suggesting that the majority of young people hadn’t heard of the qualifications and employers that were interested in providing T Level work placements fell by 6% between 2019 and 2021.
- Around 1/5 of the first T Levels cohort dropped out due to them being too hard for students with lower academic attainment, or those who have SEND. A one-year Transition Programme was created by the Department for Education in order to make the qualification more accessible, however only 14% of the first cohort progressed into the T Level.
- A lack of data meant that it was hard to show how effective T Levels are at supporting student progression into skilled employment, apprenticeships, and higher education.
- May universities aren’t accepting T Levels alone to access undergraduate degrees, with them requiring additional relevant A Levels as well.
These findings lead to the committee stating that the AGQs should “only be withdrawn as and when there is a robust evidence base proving that T Levels are demonstrably more effective in preparing students for progression, meeting industry needs and promoting social mobility.”
According to the committee, the ministers stated that 92% of the first cohort of T Levels achieved a pass, however they failed to touch on the fact that one-fifth of the starters dropped out.
Another recommendation from the committee was that the Department for Education should undertake a review of funding for 16-19 education, with this bringing in more targeted support for disadvantaged students.
Robin Walker MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:
“The government’s response to our detailed and strongly evidenced recommendations was disappointing and gives the impression of prioritisation saving face over ensuring its reforms are carried out in the interests of young people. The committee has made constructive suggestions and stands by them to ensure that our post 16 qualifications deliver for as many young people as possible.
“Whilst we welcome the ambition of having a higher value vocational qualification for some, we remain concerned that T Levels may not adequately fill the void that hastily withdrawing AGQs may create, and that there is insufficient evidence that T Levels will be an achievable option for swathes of young people who do not achieve the top grades at GCSE, or who have SEND. Failing to take this into account runs the risk of exacerbating existing inequalities.
“The Government also needs to face up to the fact that funding for 16-19 further education has been eroded away over a long period and that the increases in recent years only make up part of that. That’s why we called for a wholesale review of funding for this sector, including more targeted support for disadvantaged students which would go a long way towards helping those who we fear may otherwise struggle to keep up their studies in the years ahead.”
Image credit: iStock