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News23rd February 2022

Ark calls for ‘third way’ to retain BTECs for post-16 students

BTECs should be retained and continue to be properly funded as part of a range of post-16 options offered to students, according to Ark Schools in a position paper published today.

The paper – Ark Position Paper on the Level 3 Landscape – is being published in advance of an online discussion on post-16 education featuring former Education Secretary Lord Baker of Dorking and the Principal of Ark Globe, Matt Jones. The ArkTalks event will be chaired by Nick Linford, former editor of FE Week and founder of Lsect and will also include the champion of vocational education, Ruth Coyle, Director of La Retraite Sixth Form.

Ark is the first large multi-academy trust to confirm its position in support of retention of Applied General Qualifications such as BTECs and is urging the Department for Education (DfE) to reverse plans to remove funding from most of these programmes in 2024. The DfE has already dropped plans to scrap BTECs altogether following a campaign by many post-16 providers last year.

The paper states: “Moving to a two-tier system, where most young people do either A-levels or T-levels, would narrow options too much. While T-levels will be the right qualification for those who are clear about the industry they want to work in, many students have not made that decision when they start their post-16 study. The under-informed choice of a specialist pathway could lead to substantial drop-out and inappropriate learning for future work and education.”

The paper also includes a selection of recommendations informed by Ark’s own experience of delivering BTECs with a wrap-around curriculum as part of its successful Professional Pathways programme.

The impact of Ark’s approach to delivering vocational qualifications has been independently evaluated showing that Ark’s programme removes major differences between A level and BTEC students in their approach to choosing university and courses.

As a sign of the programme’s success, year on year, 40% of Professional Pathway students progress on to top third universities or on to Top 100 Apprenticeships.

A summary of the research can be read here and a full copy can be found here.

As well as formalising a third way, Ark argues that DfE should fund a similar wrap around curriculum to help students to make the right choices for them and to help them prepare for the world of work.

Sarah Taunton, Ark’s Head of Programme (Professional Pathways), said, “We need to avoid returning to an archaic two-track system. Our experience shows there is a suitable third way that has BTECs as part of a diverse and effective system for post-16 education.”

Ark will be hosting a discussion event as part of its #ArkTalks series on the future of technical and vocational education this evening (Wednesday 23 February) at 5pm.

You can register to attend here.