Labour warns BTECs cull could hit healthcare and retail hardest

'We want to ensure every young person can gain a level 3 qualification whether through A-levels, T Levels, BTECs or other qualifications'

'We want to ensure every young person can gain a level 3 qualification whether through A-levels, T Levels, BTECs or other qualifications'

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Healthcare and retail industries could be hardest hit if the government continues its “hasty” move to cut funding for most BTECs, according to the Labour Party.

In a speech to the Federation of Awarding Bodies conference today, shadow education secretary will say it is “deeply irresponsible” to defund the level 3 qualifications as T Levels are introduced.

Analysis by Labour shows that almost one million workers hold BTECs as their highest level of qualification, including 136,000 in retail and wholesale, and 105,000 in health and social work.

Green will warn that the BTECs cull “risks holding young people back from achieving the qualifications they need”.

The DfE embarked on a two-stage level 3 and below qualifications review in March 2019 to consider the 12,000 applied general qualifications in England, including Pearson’s popular BTEC courses.

The final outcome was published in July. At the time, the DfE said the reforms would involve stripping public funding from “poor-quality” qualifications that duplicate or overlap with T Levels or A-levels. They added that courses like BTECs would become “rare” in future.

The DfE has however said that some BTECs would survive the government’s bonfire of level 3 qualifications if they can demonstrate there is a “real need” for them, or if they are in an area that T Levels do not cover, such as performing arts.

There will be multiple T Levels in healthcare, but none are planned for retail.

Last week, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told MPs that BTECs that “are of high quality and are valued will continue”.

The DfE is yet to say how it will determine which BTECs and other level 3 qualifications meets the “high quality” bar.

Labour warned in August that cutting off public funding for BTECs could entrench inequalities in exam results, especially affecting students with free school meals or special educational needs.

Green will use her speech today to warn that “40 per cent of young people” are leaving compulsory education without level 3 qualifications, “which has remained stagnant for over half a decade”.

Labour would “maintain BTEC qualifications”, she will add, to ensure this figure does not rise.

“Labour wants every student to have a choice of education pathways and support in finding the route that’s right for them and their futures. 

“Sectors such as health and retail are benefitting from the skills of workers with BTECs and we want to ensure every young person can gain a level 3 qualification whether through A-levels, T Levels, BTECs or other qualifications. 

“We are already falling behind other countries in developing skills for the future and narrowing students’ future options will not drive up the numbers gaining essential qualifications. The Conservatives plans risk holding young people and our economy back.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our reforms will simplify the current system and ensure young people can be confident that the qualifications they study will be fit for the future, high quality and lead to good outcomes.

“We have set out the qualifications we intend to fund alongside T Levels and A levels, and will fund BTECs or similar qualifications where there is a clear need for skills and knowledge that is not provided elsewhere.”

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