The Education Committee has warned that hastily implementing significant changes to post-16 qualifications could leave young people without appropriate qualification pathways and exacerbate worker shortages in critical sectors. Specifically, the Department for Education’s plan to withdraw funding from Applied General Qualifications (AGQs), including BTECs, prior to adequate evaluation and rollout of T Levels could be problematic.
The Committee’s report recommends that DfE delay the withdrawal of AGQ funding until there is concrete evidence that T Levels are more effective in promoting student progress, meeting industry demands, and advancing social mobility. The majority of those who submitted evidence to the inquiry agreed with this perspective. The Committee further asserts that prematurely eliminating AGQs could reduce student choice and limit progression opportunities, leading to a rise in young people who are not in education, employment, or training.
Additionally, the implementation of T Levels since 2019 has been hindered by concerns about unequal regional access to industry placements, scalability, and a decline in employer interest in offering placements. The Committee maintains that robust industry buy-in and T Level success are prerequisites to discontinuing AGQs.
Moreover, MPs heard that T Levels may not be accessible to students with lower academic attainment or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), despite the T Level Transition Programme being introduced for such students. However, only 14% of the programme’s initial cohort moved on to T Levels, a figure deemed “entirely inadequate” by the Committee.
The report also highlights the significant drop in under-19 starting apprenticeships between 2015/16 and 2021/22, with new starts on level 2 apprenticeships falling 69% over the same period. While older, more qualified adults currently undertake the majority of apprenticeships, the Committee urges the Government to prioritize making apprenticeships the top “earn and learn” option for young people.
Finally, MPs call for a comprehensive review of 16-19 funding after hearing about the sector’s difficulties due to real terms funding reductions between 2010 and 2020.
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