2019 Summer Term

The know zone

  • Primary focus
    ASCL's newly appointed Primary Specialist Tiffnie Harris shares starting points for primary leaders when considering 'curriculum intent' following the publication of the new Ofsted framework. More
  • The end for BTECs?
    The government's consultation on the review of post-16 qualifications closed on 10 June. As we await the outcome with bated breath, we wonder: was this just an attempt to sacrifice the Applied General Qualification (AGQ) on the altar of T levels? Kevin Gilmartin examines the bigger picture. More
  • Due diligence
    An important element of forming, joining or merging an academy trust is to ensure that a comprehensive due diligence process has been undertaken. This way, says Hayley Dunn, schools can reduce, manage or avoid any pitfalls. More
  • Its in our DNA
    With an ever-growing focus on teacher recruitment and retention, it's important to ensure, now more than ever, that you are looking after the wellbeing of your staff. Here MAT CEO Jeremy Rowe shares top tips from his schools' Staff Charter. More
  • RIP for AGQs?
    We are concerned that the government's review of post-16 qualifications could result in Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) being discontinued. Do you run AGQs in your sixth form or college? What are the benefits of these qualifications? What would be the impact if they were discontinued? Here, ASCL members have their say. More
  • Sending a clear message
    Senior leader and ASCL Council Member Margaret Mulholland says disadvantage isn't simply about circumstance or special educational needs and disability (SEND), it's more than that - it's about being individual - a message policymakers should take on board More
  • Give me a break
    Every year as exam season finally comes to an end and sports day and prom night have been and gone, we can at last start looking forward to the summer holiday. But do we really, actually, ever, get a break? More
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We are concerned that the government’s review of post-16 qualifications could result in Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) being discontinued.  Do you run AGQs in your sixth form or college? What are the benefits of  these qualifications? What would be the impact if they were discontinued?  Here, ASCL members have their say.

RIP for AGQs?


We’ve run a selection of AGQs very successfully for several years. The one thing they really do well for our students is allow them to mix-and-match, so students can do some more vocational-based courses but also marry these with one or two A levels. This allows our students to keep their options open for post-18 choices. We regularly see a number of 16 year-olds who do not know what they want to do after 18, and I fear that forcing students either down a purely academic route of A levels or vocational route of T levels will be counterproductive.

The DfE saying a few students may be ‘disengaged’ with education post-16 is a misunderstanding of how many 16 year-olds think.

Richard Taylor
Director of Sixth Form, Hellesdon High School and Sixth Form, Norwich, Norfolk

Offer choice and flexibility

In a sixth form of more than 500 students, our curriculum offer is mostly A level courses and about one-sixth of our entries are for Level 3 AGQs.

The majority of these are single A level equivalents, taken by students in various combinations and typically  (but not always) alongside  A levels. These courses are highly popular because they widen choice and offer flexibility.

In addition to very healthy recruitment, strong evidence of successful progression for students who take these courses – in terms of moving on to higher education and/or into work – provides further confirmation of the value of these courses. This remains the case even after the frustration of navigating teething issues that have arisen from the awarding bodies’ development of new ATGs.

Overall, we are at a loss to understand why a pathway that is so clearly valuable for significant numbers of students would be under threat.

Dan Silverman 
Deputy Head, Alexandra Park School, London


My school doesn’t run AGQs, but we do run the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and Career Programme (IBCP). Indeed, we were the first state school to offer these programmes, alongside A levels, in 1977 and 2010 respectively. We have confirmed that these programmes are also part of this review yet they are highly regarded by universities, students, parents and also many government representatives.

The IBCP is particularly under threat as our politicians seek to remove competitor vocational courses to ensure the ‘success’ of T levels, despite the fact that they are totally inappropriate for most school sixth forms. The IB also gives this school its guiding principles in terms of a values-driven, enriched, broad curriculum. 

We became an academy in 2011 as part of a journey from grant-maintained status towards greater autonomy. We did this to protect our unique ethos. 

We now find our unique and distinctive character under threat once more – so much for autonomy.

David Barrs
Headteacher, Anglo European School, Ingatestone, Essex

University will become out of reach

We’ve run successful BTECs for a decade with outstanding results and progression to university. BTECs provide a successful route for students with lower points per entry that often correlates with disadvantage, so removing BTECs will affect this vulnerable group who need social mobility the most.

It’s been widely communicated that T levels may replace BTECs, but students won’t have access to university without a foundation year, resulting in the poorest students having to pay more to catch up with their wealthier, more advantaged peers.

We understand courses post-16 need streamlining, but why remove a route that’s vocational, has work experience built in and works alongside A levels and then shoehorn students at 16 into a route that effectively says students must choose technical or university – it won’t remove the stigma around vocational; it will entrench it.

Small sixth form centres such as ours with 150 BTEC learners will lose out, resulting in experienced and dedicated staff being made redundant and sixth form schools falling into a worse state of funding.

Rebecca McCairns 
Director of Sixth Form, King Ecgbert School, Sheffield, South Yorkshire