Qualifications, Skills reform

Revealed: 1 in 3 at risk BTECs saved from the chop

DfE publishes 'final' list of level 3 quals that overlap with first ten T Levels

DfE publishes 'final' list of level 3 quals that overlap with first ten T Levels

14 Oct 2022, 13:09

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At least a third of the BTEC qualifications set to be axed in 2024 have been saved.

The Department for Education has today published the “final” list of level 3 qualifications that overlap with the first ten T Levels and face being defunded.

Of the 160 vocational and technical qualifications that were facing the chop, at least 106 will continue to be defunded in two years’ time. These courses account for around 38,000 current enrolments.

But a decision has been delayed on another 33 courses that overlap with health and science T Levels.

The content of these T Levels is being reviewed by the government after Ofqual found last year’s exams were not fit for purpose and led to results for over 1,000 students being regraded. The final outcome for these courses will be published later this calendar year.

It means the remaining 21 courses have been saved from the chop. They had been deemed to overlap with digital, construction and education and childcare T Levels.

Of these, 12 are BTECs offered by Pearson. A total of 38 BTECs were in line to be axed in the provision list.

Pearson’s popular BTEC national foundation diploma in engineering and BTEC national extended diploma in engineering, which both attract over 3,000 annual enrolments each, are among those to be saved.

A Pearson spokesperson said the company appealed to save 16 of its qualifications on the defunding list and was “pleased” that 12 were successful, adding that the DfE has “recognised that they are valued by learners, schools, colleges, universities and employers and are not replaced by T Levels”.  

“Schools and colleges should be reassured that they can continue to teach the vast majority of our BTEC qualifications into the future.”

OCR managed to make successful appeals for five of their seven qualifications facing the axe, while NOCN saved one of its seven, Excellence, Achievement & Learning Limited held on to two of their eight, and Engineering Construction Industry Training Board protected its only qualification in line to be defunded.

The DfE previously said there are around 2,000 existing courses in the vocational and technical qualifications space and in scope for the level 3 funding review, meaning just 5 per cent are so far certain to be cut.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association has been leading the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign to oppose the defunding process. Its deputy chief executive James Kewin said the list of level 3 qualifications published today suggests that the government is fulfilling its pledge to only remove funding for a “small proportion” of applied general qualifications.

He added that the decision not to defund any engineering BTECs “is particularly welcome”.

However, Kewin took issue with the DfE’s decision to continue reviewing courses that overlap with health and science T Levels.

He called on the government to “abandon its plans to defund these courses”.

“Their importance to the healthcare workforce, and the well-documented problems with the qualifications that are supposed to replace them, have greatly increased the risks associated with removing them,” Kewin said. “More broadly, requiring applied general qualifications that have been through this overlap process to now go through a further reapproval process is both bureaucratic and unnecessary.”

The DfE said its analysis of the final defunding list, excluding health and science, shows that students from special education needs and disabilities backgrounds, disadvantaged backgrounds, and those from white ethnic groups are “more likely to be disproportionately affected”.

More qualifications will be reviewed in future years as more T Levels roll out. A provisional list of qualifications that overlap with wave three and four T Levels in spring 2023 and awarding organisations will also be given the opportunity to appeal.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are removing funding from a small number of qualifications that overlap with the first 10 T Levels so that young people have access to clearer, high-quality options, and employers can continue to access to the skilled workforce they need to thrive.

“This move, in combination with our wider review of qualifications, will make sure only qualifications that are necessary and lead to good outcomes are approved for public funding, delivering greater value for money for the taxpayer.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “It’s good to see that the appeals were properly considered in a number of cases, and that the numbers being defunded is modest.

“But that should not distract from the fundamental issue here, that no qualifications which overlap with T Levels should be defunded until T Levels are fully tried and tested and we understand more about who can truly access and achieve in them.”

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