As a misguided “fantasy” that won’t succeed since so many schools can’t find instructors in these disciplines, Rishi Sunak’s plans to abolish A-levels and make Math and English compulsory until the age of 18 have been criticised by heads, teaching specialists, and unions.
The Advanced British Standard, a combined baccalaureate-style credential that Rishi Sunak proposes to replace both A-levels and the government’s new T-levels, was described as “one of the biggest levers we have to change the direction of our country” in Rishi Sunak’s speech to the Conservative party conference last week.
“Given the national crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, the idea of making English and Maths compulsory to 18 seems quite preposterous at the moment,” Dr. Rachel Roberts, who directs the postgraduate teacher training programme in English at Reading University and is the former chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said in an interview with the Observer.
Secondary heads all over the nation, who claim to have grown accustomed to advertisements for maths, computing and science teachers failing to draw even one qualified applicant, have complained that they are now having a real problem finding English teachers. This year, Roberts’ university saw a third decrease in applications for English teaching programmes, a pattern she claims was shared across the nation.
Rishi Sunak announces plans to scrap A-levels in new education policy
This past weekend, the Department of Education announced that early career bonuses for teachers in underserved schools and universities would be implemented the next school year. However, the tax-free bonuses for teachers in their first five years of employment, up to £6,000 annually, will only apply to maths, physics, computing, and chemistry. There won’t be any more assistance for English teachers.
Dr. Roberts claimed that in addition to being unjust to people who have been teaching for a longer period of time, few experts believe that these bonuses will be successful. “The initial teacher training bursary system hasn’t really done anything to increase the numbers in shortage subjects, and certainly not for English.”
“Grand goals declaring that we will deliver Maths and English to 18 feel like a fantasy when set against the real challenges our education system is grappling with amid growing societal inequalities,” said Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at Exeter University.
He claimed that improving fundamental mathematical and literacy abilities for all youngsters by the time they turn 16 should take precedence over changing the A-level curriculum. It’s shameful, he continued, that one-third of English students fail to earn a passing score of 4 in both English and arithmetic for their GCSE exams.
Rishi Sunak’s announcements, according to Will Teece, headteacher of Brookvale Groby Learning Campus, a secondary academy in Leicester, were hoped to be “just noise” and never materialise.
“It’s a fantasy to think that we could add more instructional time and maths. A-level modifications are not at all necessary, in my opinion.
Rishi Sunak’s remark, according to NAHT school leaders’ union general secretary Paul Whiteman, demonstrated “just how out of touch this government has become with the teaching profession.”
“Schools are currently dealing with so many immediate crises, from recruitment and retention to deteriorating school structures and the lack of support for students with SEND,” he said.