The qualifications regulator Ofqual has joined those raising concerns about possible government plans to scrap funding for applied general qualifications, the most widely known of which is the BTEC. The government are currently consulting on the future of post-16 qualifications at Level 3 and below, specifically on ‘not providing public funding for qualifications for 16 to 19 year olds that overlap with T Levels or A Levels’, and the expectation is that this would include BTECs. T Levels are the government’s new technical qualification which will be introduced in 2020, with one T Level considered equivalent to three A Levels.

In their response to the consultation, which closes on 10 June, Ofqual argue that some learners, especially those with SEND or who need to study part time – perhaps because of caring responsibilities – may face difficulty in accessing T Levels. They also suggest that if T Level study ‘ is not suited to a learner, if they are not ready to specialise in an occupation, or they are unable to access the qualification for any other reason, then there is a risk that a barrier to progress may be created if their alternative choices are unduly restricted.’ Ofqual say that these barriers to progress might particularly, but not exclusively, affect ‘disadvantaged learner groups’.

Meanwhile, another submission to the consultation from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), warns that the ‘all or nothing at all’ nature of T Levels would make them unsuitable for some learners. The AELP - which represents organisations that deliver apprenticeships, employability support and vocational learning - also urges the government not to ‘remove qualifications at level 3 to artificially drive learners onto T-Levels’, saying that this could cause ‘a void’ for young people wanting to enter sectors which will not be served by any of the planned T Levels. Causing such a ‘future skills gap’ should be avoided at all costs they say.

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