School leaders respond to new plans for Advanced British Standard

As the Advanced British Standard (ABS) qualification consultation closes, school leaders have responded to the government’s proposal for a new Baccalaureate-style qualification framework.

Opened in December 2023, the government said the consultation was for feedback on the ABS, which was ‘designed’ to ‘address issues’ in the current education system, which ‘limits the breadth of young people’s education and prevents full parity between technical and academic routes’.

The government said the ABS will:

  • Merge A-levels and T-levels
  • Increase the number of taught hours for all students
  • Require students to study maths and English to the age of 18
  • increase the average number of subjects students take post 16 and introducing ‘major’ and ‘minor’ subjects
  • Have a clear offer for all students

As the consultation closed yesterday, school leaders offered their perspective on the proposal.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union, NAHT, commented on the qualification.

He stated: “While we support the aims of broadening the post-16 curriculum and achieving parity between technical and academic qualifications, we are concerned that these proposals do neither.

“This unimaginative qualification repackages A-levels and T-levels together but still forces students down one route or the other at the outset and is unlikely to help them fulfil their potential and prepare for adulthood.

“It’s vital the government listens to the concerns of the profession and reviews these proposals if it is serious about developing a system which truly puts the needs of students front and centre.”

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) labelled the approach the government has taken with the ABS as ‘fundamentally flawed.

Kevin Gilmartin, Post-16 specialist at the ASCL, said: “Right now the post-16 sector needs resources, namely investment in teachers, buildings and level of per-student funding, much more urgently than it needs further reform.

“T-levels still need time to bed in and yet the government’s present Level 3 reforms to defund many BTECs and other similar qualifications – which are taken by many thousands of young people – are continuing apace.

“This risks removing a proven and popular pathway for young people, destablising the post-16 system, and causing uncertainty and concern in schools and colleges across the country. The proposal for the ABS – which would replace A-levels and T-levels in 10 years’ time – only adds to this uncertainty.”

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