In early October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed a new qualification for school leavers aged 16 to 18 called the “Advanced British Standard”, claiming it will “bring together A-levels and T-levels into a new, single qualification for our school leavers”.
“This will finally deliver on the promise of parity of esteem between academic and technical education,” Sunak said. The new qualification will see students covering more subjects from the age of 16 and will make it compulsory to study a form of maths and English until the age of 18.
“We will raise the floor ensuring that our children leave school literate and numerate, because with the Advanced British Standard all students will study some form of maths and English to 18 with extra help for those who struggle most,” the PM announced. “In our country no child should be left behind.”
While these proposed changes may not materialise for years, if at all, we want to run through some initial pros and cons that came to our mind as an MIS provider used in thousands of Schools.
Greater understanding of practical skills
It’s fair to say that Maths and English are not every student’s favourite subject, particularly dealing with Algebra, Equations or Book studies. While some elements of Maths and English are likely to remain dormant in a student’s conscious mind, there are so many other aspects that will be invaluable in later life. My mind instantly gravitates towards multiplication, percentages, and charts/graphs, each of which can help greatly with budgeting, business, and planning in all walks of life. The importance of being able to competently read, write and understand English does not need to be reiterated here, but it is a reality that lack thereof is likely to become a hurdle as students navigate adult life (job applications, learning to drive and relationships).
Clarity, less is more
To this day, I do not personally agree with the way students are somewhat ‘pressured’ into making life decisions towards the end of their school journeys. So many students end up picking A-Level or University Courses out of obligation, rather than actual interest, but more on this later. By extending the period of study for Maths and English, students will have less decisions to make regarding other subjects and can take their time in selecting others that they genuinely wish to pursue, rather than padding out their timetables/filling a slot. It also provides greater support to students at a lower learning level or rate of learning, who may not be ready to navigate the world with their current understanding of these subjects.
Lack of flexibility
I know for a fact that if/when these changes come into effect, there will be some unhappy students. Students learn at different rates and often have different requirements, weaknesses and so on. Therefore, making Maths and English compulsory for another 2 years in a society where social media platforms are dominating their attention, the risk of mental fatigue and resistance increase, and we could end up in a situation where students are not being given the freedom to learn for themselves like past generations. You also run the risk of students feeling as though progress is not being made because the Teacher to Student dynamic has never changed (Teachers explains, Student writes/answers etc). Some creativity will be required to ensure it does not become GCSE learning extended!
What about life skills?
Again, while I think extending the compulsory learning time for Maths and English has some benefits, I feel there is a massive opportunity being missed. As mentioned earlier, I dislike the way students essentially must make a decision for the next decade of their life, having not ever experienced any of it outside of a school environment. Why then are we not preparing the future generations by teaching them emotional intelligence, how to pay bills, how to get on the property ladder or interview tips. While some aspects of these are covered in classes like Business, Financial studies or maybe Drama, it is nowhere near enough. I am so confident that if the above skills were made compulsory over Maths and English, engagement, effort, and outcomes would soar through the roof. But that’s just my opinion, what do you think?
Overall, there are good arguments both ways for the Advanced British Standard. With it unlikely to come into action any time soon, if at all, it is likely to be a conversation for another time until Rishi Sunak has more to say. As always, which ever path is forged, Bromcom will ensure that we are at the front of it ready to help students and schools succeed.
- Practical uses in Business and life.
- Ensures disadvantaged or students with less understanding are given more time.
- Provides more time for Students to find what they like.
- Reduces pressure and obligation to make decisions and find a future path.
- Majority of students likely to resist or dislike the change, leading to lower engagement.
- Students not being given the freedom or flexibility to try other subjects or learning methods.
- Increased demand for English and Maths teachers could stretch resources.
- Missed opportunity to prepare Students with other life skills like Emotional Intelligence and budgeting.