Tom Richmond


@EDSKthinktank - A-levels, BTECs and T-levels should be replaced by a ‘Baccalaureate’ 

The dominance of A-levels has relegated applied and technical education to second-class status, according to a new report from education think tank EDSK. The report recommends that A-levels, Applied General qualifications (such as BTECs), T-levels and apprenticeships should be combined into a single ‘Baccalaureate’ that spans the final years of secondary education.

The report shows that, despite being labelled as the ‘gold standard’ by many politicians, A-levels suffer from numerous flaws. When they were created in 1951, A-levels were meant to eliminate ‘premature specialisation’ by ensuring there was only a gradual tapering-off in the number of subjects studied from the ages of 14 to 18. Far from achieving this aim, just 4.4 per cent of A-level students took more than three subjects in 2020 – a drop of almost half over the last four years alone. There is now a cliff-edge reduction in subject breadth from Year 11 (GCSEs) to Year 12 (first year of Sixth Form), even though A-levels were supposed to prevent such a ‘bottleneck curriculum’.

The report also shows that the worrying lack of breadth in our A-level system makes England an international outlier. The new ‘Baccalauréat’ in France contains six compulsory subjects alongside two or three optional courses; students in Germany take four or five subjects from a range of disciplines; the International Baccalaureate requires students to study up to six subjects; and students taking the most common Leaving Certificate in Ireland usually take seven subjects. The absence of compulsory subjects such as English and maths alongside A-levels also compares unfavourably with almost all developed countries.

In addition, this report finds that the dominance of A-levels has a detrimental effect on the prestige of other options available to young people. 83 per cent of students who left school or college last year had taken A-levels, meaning that vital courses such as health and social care and digital media are increasingly at risk of being squeezed out of the curriculum. The on-going lack of visibility of the recently launched ‘T-levels’ as well as the government’s current plans to remove funding for many applied courses such as BTECs are likely to further entrench the unwarranted dominance of A-levels. 

The EDSK report makes the following recommendations:

  • A-levels, BTECs, T-levels and apprenticeships should be replaced by a three-year ‘Baccalaureate’ that includes all academic, applied and technical courses.
  • The Baccalaureate will allow students to gradually specialise in their preferred subject(s) over the course of the three-year programme, with students also being able to mix-and-match academic, applied and technical courses depending on their interests.
  • All students will be required to study English and maths until the age of 18, bringing our secondary education system into line with many other developed nations.
  • The Baccalaureate will use a single grading system for all courses (Distinction-Merit-Pass-Fail) as well as a single accountability system that measures every student’s progress in the same way irrespective of their course choices. 

Tom Richmond, Director of EDSK and a former advisor to ministers at the Department for Education, said:

   “Given that A-levels were originally created to prevent students from specialising too early and only studying a narrow range of subjects, it is ironic that this famous qualification brand has never fulfilled this mission and might have made the situation even worse.

“No other developed country would describe studying just three subjects for two years as a ‘gold standard’. On the contrary, other major economies typically insist that students take around six to eight subjects in their final years at school or college to ensure they receive a broad and balanced education.

“Previous Conservative and Labour governments have also both recognised that the dominance of A-levels has undermined the prestige of applied and technical courses. If the current government is serious about boosting technical education, it must end the political obsession with A-levels by introducing a ‘Baccalaureate’ that creates a level playing field for a broad range of rigorous academic, applied and technical courses.” 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Shahjahan Shamim shared a photo. yesterday

Shahjahan Shamim is one of the known names when it comes to emerging singers and musicians. Besides being a successful YouTuber, he tried his luck... Show more

Shahjahan Shamim had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @SrBachchan: T 3975 - .. travelled .. and the mahurat of first day tomorrow .. a new film a new beginning , a new environ .. 'NEW' never…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page