No more A-Levels? PM Sunak unveils plan to overhaul British education system

Britains Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England, on October 4, 2023. AFP
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England, on October 4, 2023. AFP

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has revealed his ambitious vision to transform post-16 education in England, announcing the introduction of a groundbreaking qualification called the “Advanced British Standard” (ABS). 

The new qualification aims to amalgamate A-levels and T-levels, revolutionising the education landscape. 

In his address at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Sunak emphasised the goal of achieving “parity of esteem” between academic and technical education. 

The ABS will encompass the best aspects of both A-levels and T-levels, providing students with a broader and more flexible education, Sunak said.

The UK PM said that one of the key changes proposed is an increase in the number of subjects students will study, moving from the traditional three to a minimum of five subjects. 

Sunak also highlighted plans to extend the number of taught hours for post-16 students, ensuring they receive at least 1,475 hours of instruction over two years, a significant boost from the current standard.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister underscored the importance of all students studying English and mathematics until the age of 18, reinforcing the commitment to equipping young individuals with essential literacy and numeracy skills.

To support the implementation of the ABS, Sunak announced an initial investment of £600 million over two years. This funding will include tax-free bonuses of up to £30,000 for teachers in key shortage subjects during their first five years in the profession, aimed at attracting and retaining teaching talent.

While the government’s proposals have been welcomed by some, including the promise of a more comprehensive and well-rounded education for students, critics argue that the plan overlooks pressing issues such as teacher shortages and infrastructure problems in schools.

The government is set to initiate a consultation on the ABS implementation process later this autumn, followed by the release of a white paper outlining the details.

In a broader context, Prime Minister Sunak also touched on initiatives to promote apprenticeships and pledged to discourage colleges from offering programs that “do nothing for students’ life chances,” addressing concerns over degrees with limited employability prospects.

The announcement marks a significant step towards reshaping post-16 education in England, with the government aiming to ensure that students are better prepared for future career opportunities and challenges.

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