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AoC responds to Education Committee report on post-16 reforms

28 April 2023

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Responding to the Commons Education Select Committee's report on post-16 qualification reform, David Hughes, Association of Colleges said: "Colleges are positively contributing to the growth of T Levels and I believe they can become highly respected qualifications in time, but the hasty defunding of other qualifications is not necessary for T Levels to succeed. AoC and college leaders have consistently warned of the enormous risks involved in defunding existing qualifications before T Levels have been tested and become established.

“It is very welcome and timely that the cross-party Education Committee has highlighted the challenges in terms of accessibility around T Levels and ensuring there are sufficient industry placements. I hope the Department for Education, the Institute for Technical Education and Apprenticeships and Ofqual will now consider this report carefully and act upon it to ensure all students have suitable study options post-16.

“The DfE’s own impact assessment warns that tens of thousands of young people could have no qualification to work towards because the barrier to entry for T Levels is too high and the programme and assessment is unrealistic for many. Meanwhile, there are simply not enough industry placements to meet all student demand, particularly in some parts of the country. Withdrawing funding for applied generals will also reduce opportunities for adults to upskill and retrain, as adult students often infill places on these courses.

“A large proportion of school leavers are not ready for level 3 study when they leave school. Greater investment is needed in 16 to 19 education at level 2 and below to prepare students for a level 3 study programme, whether that is an A Level, a T Level or an applied general.

“The committee also rightly highlights the stark drop in the numbers of young people taking apprenticeships and the cuts to funding for 16 to 19 education over the last 12 years. Both need addressing urgently as the real-world impact is being acutely felt in sectors like construction and social care which are struggling with labour shortages as a result.”