Labour would pause and review the current government’s controversial bonfire of BTECs if the party wins the next general election, Bridget Phillipson has pledged.
The shadow education secretary made the vow in a letter to the Protect Student Choice campaign, which suggests an incoming Labour government would not defund any level 3 applied general qualifications in 2025.
Her letter, seen by FE Week, said: “Labour believes the way in which the transition from BTECs to T Levels is being handled by the government is putting the broader success of T Levels as a new qualification at risk, and constraining opportunities for our young people.
“Labour recognises the instability that is being caused by the government’s reckless treatment of our nation’s vital further education sector.
“The next Labour government will ensure all students are able to complete their courses and will review the diversity of options at level 3 before making further changes.”
It marks a big step for the Protect Student Choice campaign, which has called for a pause and review of the process with the backing of cross-party MPs and Lords.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association which leads the campaign, said: “In accepting the campaign’s request to pause and review the level 3 defunding process, Labour has thrown a potential lifeline to tens of thousands of young people who will be left without a pathway under the current government’s plan to scrap most BTECs.
“Knowing that a Labour government would adopt a more considered approach to qualification reform will come as welcome news to schools, colleges and universities who until now, have had no alternative but to plan for a hasty and misguided cull of applied general qualifications.”
The Department for Education is moving towards a streamlined system for students finishing their GCSEs which pushes them to study either A-levels, T Levels, or an apprenticeship from 2025.
Alternative AGQs like Pearson’s popular BTECs will only get funding from August 2025 onwards if they do not overlap with the other qualification and pass a strict approvals process.
The DfE doubled down on this timeline yesterday in its response to a report from the House of Commons education select committee, which called for a pause and review of the reforms.
Kewin said that in the SFCA’s conversations with the Labour team, the party has been “clear” that no AGQ would be defunded if it wins the next general election until a review of the options at level 3 has been carried out.
“This is a potentially game-changing development in 16 to 19 education and illustrates a commitment to the sort of evidence-based policymaking that the government has chosen not to adopt at any stage of the level 3 reform process,” he added.