Scrapping BTecs

I recently read an article regarding the plans to scrap BTec qualifications (see article here) and thought I had to share my thoughts on this matter.  Let’s simply say I am not in favour of these plans.

I have long been a great supporter of vocational education having spent a number of years teaching in an FE college, where vocational courses were delivered, eventually leading their Computing/IT provision.  I have also been a unit writer developing unit specifications for BTec IT Practitioner courses and a Standards Verifier for a BTec IT course visiting schools to check the appropriate standards in relation to student evidence were met.   As such I will admit to possible bias and being invested in the BTec programme however I also think my experience has shown me the true value of BTec provision.

During my career to date, I have saw students who had struggled in schools with traditional examination based curriculum, such as GCSE, joining an FE college and progressing through the levels, with a number of students progressing through level 1, 2 and 3, and onwards to university and beyond.    Others would complete level 2 or 3 and then head out into the world of work.   The BTec courses provided this progression route and provided for those students who struggled with examinations.

I have seen students who had a singular focus on IT and technology, who therefore were not interested in a breadth of A-Level subjects, or who wanted something more hands on, rather than theoretical and examination based.    Again, the BTec courses provided for these students.

I worry therefore that some of the above will be lost with the new T-levels, that some of the experience and skill developed by those teachers delivering BTec courses will be lost in transition, that some of the various options and pathways will also be lost.    I am just not convinced the T-Level program is ready to replace BTec, and am not sure it will ever be.  

The work experience placement side of things on the T-Level gives me particular concern, as although I agree with the principle of greater amounts of work experience, when I was in FE I struggled putting 200 BTec Level 3 students in 1 week worth of worthwhile placement per year, never mind a significantly longer period, assuming the number of students remained steady.   If you cant find worthwhile placements, and the students then end up on placements with limited relationship to their core studies, then the placement has limited value, reducing the value of the course itself.   Now things may have changed, given I have been away from FE for a number of years, but this still gives me cause for concern.

I have also long seen the struggle to have BTec Level 3 qualifications viewed in equal terms when compared to A-Level.   This still hasn’t happened after many years of people trying, so I suspect a shift to T-Levels is not going to help this quest for parity between vocational and so-called academic qualifications.

I am very concerned with the proposed scrapping of BTecs.   I can understand why the government might wish to push their new initiative and the T-Levels, but I think they are missing the breadth of provision which BTec courses currently offer, plus the breadth of students who are learning and developing through BTec provision.    I do hope this decision is reconsidered and that the BTec continues for a number of more years at least.


Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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