Commenting on plans to introduce a new ‘Advanced British Standard’ qualification for 16 to 19 year olds, David Robinson, Director for Post 16 and Skills at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
“We welcome the government’s aspiration for a broader post-16 curriculum. The education that sixth form and college students receive in England is narrower than in most developed countries. EPI research has shown that curriculum breadth narrowed further during the last decade, despite there being career benefits for those students who study a broader range of subjects.
“However, much more detail is needed and the government must work closely with the sector before rushing through any new reforms.
“In particular, we are concerned that yet another overhaul of post-16 qualifications will cause further uncertainty and disruption for a Further Education sector only just adapting to the introduction of T Levels, now set to be largely mothballed before even being fully implemented. Since 1999, the Further Education sector has been beset by almost constant policy reform. The government must ensure any changes enshrine long-term stability for the FE sector.
“While efforts to improve numeracy and literacy for 16-19 year olds are welcome, we will also need to see a much greater focus on improving outcomes in primary and secondary education for students who struggle with these subjects.
“Furthermore, it is unclear what these proposals will mean for the many 16–19-year-old students who currently study qualifications below A levels. Two in five students do not achieve the equivalent of two A levels by the age of 19. It is vital that they are not forgotten during the implementation of any reformed post-16 curriculum.
“To realise the ambition for at least 195 hours more teaching a year per pupil, significant progress in teacher recruitment and retention will be needed. The proposal to introduce financial incentives for early career teachers in the FE sector is welcome and this is something that EPI has previously recommended. Further detail is needed on who will receive these, and how “key shortage subjects” will be defined. With colleges suffering from a vacancy rate of over 5%, the workforce pressures facing the sector will continue to pose a huge challenge.”