Rishi Sunak has pledged to replace A-levels and T Levels with a new single “advanced British standard” qualification.
The prime minister announced during his Conservative Party conference speech that he would create a “new single qualification for our school leavers”.
A-levels and T Levels will be merged into the new qualification, which would see 16 to 19-year-olds “typically” study five subjects including “some form” of English and maths.
More teachers will be needed to deliver “at least 195 hours more” teaching for sixth-formers, Sunak acknowledged.
Those who teach “key subjects” in schools and colleges will receive “special bonuses of up to £30,000 tax free over the first five years of their career”.
The policy appears to be a fleshing out of the “British baccalaureate” proposed by Sunak in his first leadership run last year.
Government said it would launch a consultation next month, with a proposed white paper next year.
But the reforms are dependent on the Conservatives winning the next election, and if implemented would take ten years to deliver in full, documents state.
The announcement, made during the government’s T Levels celebration week, comes despite ministers’ plans to scrap other level 3 vocational qualifications, like BTECs, and replace them with T Levels, which only launched in 2020.
Students will ‘major’ in subjects
A policy document published by the government said the new qualification would “build on the best of A-levels and T Levels”.
The academic subjects in the advanced British standard “will be based on the content and academic rigour of A levels, taking the same knowledge-based approach”.
Students would choose “majors” with “comparable depth and rigour to A-levels” and with “at least 90 per cent of the content” that “support progression, including to university”.
Technical subjects within the qualification “will be based on the content of T Levels and occupational standards that employers and IfATE have carefully designed, supporting progression into higher technical education, apprenticeships and employment”.
…but not for a decade
But the reform will “take a decade to deliver in full”, meaning it could well never come to fruition if Labour wins next year’s general election and decides to cancel it.
“It will need careful development, in partnership with students, teachers, leaders, schools, colleges, universities and employers, as well as the public.”
Government will “consult extensively, and in detail, over the coming months on the design of the new qualification, informing a white paper next year setting out our plan for delivery”.
“If we want to change the direction of our country and build a better future for our children nothing is more important than making our education system the best it can be,” Sunak said today.
“I want to build on our Conservative achievements and take a long-term decision to address the problems with our 16 to 19 education system.
“Technical education is not given the respect it deserves but today, I am changing all of that, pulling one of the biggest levers we have to change the direction of our country.”