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Advanced British Standard – Are A-levels and T-levels Being Replaced?

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a new qualification, the Advanced British Standard, set to replace A-levels and T-levels for 16 to 19-year-olds in England. The reform aims to merge academic and technical subjects and is expected to be fully implemented by 2033-34.

What Changes to Expect in the UK Education?

Under the proposed Advanced British Standard, students will experience several key changes in their educational journey. Unlike the current system where most A-level students focus on just three subjects, the new qualification will require students to study a minimum of five subjects. Importantly, this will include some form of maths and English up to the age of 18. The new system aims to offer a blend of both academic and technical education, providing young people with more comprehensive skill sets and greater flexibility in their future career options.

Who is Funding the Advanced British Standard Reform?

The UK Government has pledged an initial funding of £600 million over two years to support the rollout of the Advanced British Standard. This funding is earmarked for teacher recruitment and retention, a critical aspect given the expanded subject choices and increased classroom hours. To further incentivise teaching in key subjects, educators are being offered tax-free bonuses of up to £30,000 over the first five years of their career.

✏️ “We now need to build on this record by transforming post-16 education. The plan we have set out today – backed by an initial £600 million of new support – represents real, meaningful reform that will put technical and academic education on an equal footing and ensure that all young people leave school or college knowing the basics in maths and English.” – says Rishi Sunak.

When Should We Expect ABS to Replace A-levels and T-levels?

A-levels, Source: @glegorly | iStock

The Department for Education (DfE) has indicated that the implementation of the Advanced British Standard will be a long-term endeavour, expected to be in place by 2033-34. The first students to experience this new system will be those currently entering primary school. However, it’s worth noting that these reforms are not yet set in stone. The government plans to launch a consultation process, followed by a white paper next year to outline the specifics of implementation. Furthermore, the full realisation of these plans is contingent upon the Conservative Party winning the next general election.

Impact on Students

The introduction of the Advanced British Standard is set to have a profound effect on the educational pathways available to students. By requiring a blend of academic and technical subjects, the new system aims to produce more well-rounded individuals equipped with a diverse skill set. This broader curriculum could potentially open more doors for young people, whether they choose to go into higher education, apprenticeships, or straight into the workforce.

However, the increased number of subjects and classroom hours also means a heavier workload for students. The impact of this change on student well-being and stress levels is yet to be determined and will be a crucial aspect to monitor as the new system rolls out.

While the reform aims to level the playing field by including maths and English for all, it also raises questions about how students with different learning needs will be accommodated. The proposed changes are particularly significant for students who are just entering the educational system, as they will be the first to navigate this new landscape.

✏️ “The new Advanced British Standard will help spread opportunity and benefit students for generations to come, demonstrating our clear commitment to make the right decisions for the long-term future of our country.” – says Rishi Sunak.

Public Opinion and Concerns

Teacher Concerns

There is skepticism about the government’s ability to recruit and train enough competent teachers to implement the changes effectively. Some argue that these ambitious plans might be a case of “government by wishful thinking.”

Children with Learning Difficulties

Concerns have been raised for students with dyslexia or other learning difficulties. The compulsory study of English and maths until 18 may negatively impact their overall grades.

Political Viability

The feasibility of these reforms is questioned, noting that they would only materialise if the Conservative Party wins the next general election.

Flexibility and Specialisation

Several individuals question the necessity of merging vocational and academic subjects, arguing that the current system allows for specialisation, which many students and parents prefer.

Curriculum and Assessment

Some question whether more classroom time is necessarily beneficial, mentioning that the existing systems already provide a good balance of classroom teaching and self-study.

International Comparisons

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is brought up as an existing alternative that is both comprehensive and internationally recognised. Instead of creating a new qualification, it’s suggested that existing ones like the IB could be expanded.

To Finalise

In summary, the Advanced British Standard proposes a significant overhaul of post-16 education in England, blending academic and technical learning. Backed by initial government funding and subject to political and public scrutiny, the proposed changes aim to be in place within the next decade. As with any ambitious educational reform, the coming years will be crucial in determining whether these plans come to fruition.


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