Education: Sheffield rallies behind campaign to save BTECs as it hits crucial target

Education experts in Sheffield are bidding to save BTEC qualifications from plans to withdraw funding.

Friday, 21st January 2022, 2:06 pm

BTECs are specialist work-related qualifications which combine practical learning with subject and theory content.

Ministers’ planned abolition was revealed last year with T-levels and A-levels being the key qualifications under the reforms, but this caused an outcry from the education sector.

An online petition called protect student choice: do not withdraw funding for BTEC qualifications needed to get 100,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary date. The petition hits its target today, January 21.

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Angela Foulkes, Chief Executive and Principal, Sheffield College

Sheffield College boss Angela Foulkes backs BTECs. The college’s chief executive and principal said: “Vocational qualifications provide a life transforming opportunity for students to go further in their education and training, and progress at the level that is right for them.

“Crucially, these qualifications contribute to social mobility. The majority of our students study vocational qualifications, which include BTECs.

“A significant number of our students achieve a Level 3, which is equivalent to three A Levels and enables them to go to university.

“Whilst we welcome the introduction of the new technical T Level qualifications as an additional option, they will not be suitable for all of our vocational students.

“That is why it is vital that a wide range of vocational qualifications continue to be offered to protect student choice and provide an inclusive learning experience, where there are opportunities to move up the levels at a pace that is right for the student.”

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Former Education Secretary David Blunkett supports the petition which closes on January 23.

The ex-Brightside MP said: “This is a really important issue. The Government intend to abolish BTEC National diploma, which has been a lifeline for so many students, both in terms of employment but also progression into Higher Education at a time when it is appropriate for that particular individual.”

The online petition says: “Reverse the plan to withdraw funding for most applied general qualifications such as BTECs and guarantee they will continue to play a major role in the qualifications landscape. Students should not be forced to choose between studying A levels or T levels from the age of 16.”

The Government believes better qualifications are needed to address skills gaps and improve social mobility.

But Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said funding should not be withdrawn for any BTec unless there was clear evidence that the qualification is not valued by students or employers.

“An evidence-based approach, involving those directly involved in delivery, is essential if we are to have a qualification system that works for everyone.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, added: “We warned that it was too soon to be removing pathways and choices for young people when the new T-levels were in their infancy and that it risked leaving learners with no accessible qualifications to study for.”

The petition to save BTECs is online at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/592642