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Vocational Education: Disadvantaged

Question for Department for Education

UIN 43544, tabled on 6 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure students from low socio-economic backgrounds can progress to university following the removal of BTEC courses.

Answered on

9 September 2021

Employers are facing a skills shortage that we must act to address. It is vital in a fast moving and high-tech economy that technical education closes the gap between what people study and the needs of employers. This is why we are introducing over 20 T Levels, developed with 250 leading employers, and reviewing the wider post-16 qualifications system at level 3 and below. The department’s plans for reform of level 3 qualifications were published on 14 July 2021. We will continue to fund high quality qualifications that can be taken alongside or as alternatives to T Levels and A levels where there is a clear need for skills and knowledge that T Levels and A levels cannot provide. This may include some Pearson BTECs provided they meet new quality criteria for funding approval.

The impact assessment published alongside the consultation response acknowledged that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to take qualifications that could have their funding approval removed. However, it stated that these students should gain the most from these changes because they are the most likely to be taking qualifications that do not deliver the skills employers need and will have access to higher quality qualifications in future.

We are strengthening progression pathways, creating clearly defined academic and technical routes with qualifications leading to further study, and/or skilled employment. This clarity of purpose will provide all students, including those from lower income and disadvantaged backgrounds, with a range of good options and allow them to see more easily how their study will help them to progress. For students progressing to higher education, A levels provide excellent preparation, either on their own or alongside other high-quality academic qualifications. Removing many qualifications that overlap with A levels and streamlining the system to a smaller number of high-quality qualifications will provide greater clarity for students, higher education institutions and employers and will give confidence that every option is high quality and will support progression.

Alongside our reforms to level 3 qualifications, we want to improve study at level 2 and below, which has been neglected for too long. Getting level 2 and below right is key to making sure that students have clear lines of sight to level 3, apprenticeships, traineeships, and for some, directly into other employment. We are considering feedback to the call for evidence which ran from 10 November to 14 February and will consult on proposals for reform later this year.

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