T Levels & The Advanced British Standard

In October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to create a new ‘Advanced British Standard’ – a new Baccalaureate-style qualification for 16–19-year-olds which will take the best of A Levels and T levels and bring them together into a single qualification.

At the heart of the announcement is the ambition to remove the artificial separation between technical and academic qualifications, and create a single, unified structure for all 16-19-year-olds. This is being accompanied with £600 million of initial investment.

T Levels will form the backbone of the new qualification and the roll out and scale up of T Levels will continue as planned. Those of you familiar with the T Level structure will recognise much in the proposals published last week, including a ‘core’ module, an occupational specialism and industry placement.  As with the content of T Levels, the content of the technical ABS qualification will be based on occupational standards that employers and IfATE have carefully designed, supporting progression into higher technical education, apprenticeships and employment. The new parts of the ABS are therefore much closer to the T Level than any other qualification, meaning that T Levels will be the most future proof qualification you can offer your students at 16-19.

The technical subjects within the qualification will be based on the content of T Levels and occupational standards that employers and IfATE have carefully designed, supporting progression into higher technical education, apprenticeships and employment.

The Advanced British Standard will support greater breadth by increasing the number of subjects taken post 16. Students will be able to choose a combination of ‘majors’ and ‘minors’ but will be required to study English and maths, which we know are critical to ensuring young people have the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life and work. We expect most students will take a minimum of five subjects, although those focusing on a specific occupation may take a minimum of four, reflecting the additional time they will need to spend developing specialist knowledge and engaging in high quality industry placements.

  • A change of this scale represents real, meaningful reform and will take a decade to deliver. Change will not be delivered overnight, but it’s a change that is motivated by trying to give young people the best start. It will require careful development, in partnership with employers, teachers, schools, colleges, universities, students and parents, as well as the public. As we move towards the Advanced British Standard, we will continue to defund qualifications which overlap with T Levels to ensure that we are working towards a more streamlined qualification landscape. A levels and T Levels will continue to be offered as rigorous, high-quality options for 16- to 18-year-olds and we will work closely with schools and colleges to support them to continue to deliver.

It is vital that we work with the front line to understand the implications for the sector, as well as drawing on the views of employers, parents and – most importantly – young people. This is why we will launch a formal consultation on the approach and design of the new qualification, and the accompanying work to strengthen the system to deliver it in the coming months, accompanied by an ambitious programme of stakeholder engagement. This will inform a White Paper to be published next year.

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