Plan to replace A Levels with a British Baccalaureate welcomed by ex-UK prime ministers

Sir Tony Blair and Sir John Major endorse recommendation to 'reset' education in Britain

More than 600 people were consulted during the year-long assessment of Britain's education sector. Photo: Johnny Greig
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Two former British prime ministers are among the public figures who have given their backing to a plan to overhaul the education system in Britain.

Highers in Scotland and A Levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be scrapped and replaced with a British Baccalaureate, while GCSEs and Scottish National qualifications would be cut back.

Other recommendations include making digital skills a major subject, ensuring every child has a laptop computer, creating 50 more university campuses, improving undergraduate tutors numbers, and increasing investment in early years.

Extra-curricular activities are also a focus, including yoga and a National Citizen Service experience for every pupil.

The plan to reshape UK education was drawn up by the Times Education Commission. Former prime ministers Sir Tony Blair and Sir John Major, as well as 10 former education secretaries, are co-signatories of a letter in support.

However, it received a less warm welcome from a current government politician.

"What we really need to be careful of is that we don't confuse things further," Michelle Donelan, higher and further education minister, said on Wednesday.

"As a government, what we're trying to do is simplify the options available so that students and also employers know exactly what qualifications mean, the level that they're at, the value that they can bring to the workplace."

More than 600 people were consulted during the year-long process, with opinions taken not just from those within the sector, but also those in business and the arts.

Based on the International Baccalaureate, the create of a British Baccalaureate is the headline recommendation.

The qualification is broader than the A Level, comprising academic and vocational strands which can be combined.

The academic strand involves the study of six subjects but weighted to three in either humanities or the sciences, with critical thinking, communication and creativity the other three.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has signed a letter backing the education 'rest'. AFP

TEC's 12-point plan for education

  1. A British Baccalaureate and pared-back GCSEs equivalent.
  2. More spent on activities including drama, music, dance and sport and a National Citizen Service experience for every pupil.
  3. Creation of elite technical and vocational sixth forms with close links to industry.
  4. Bolstered early years funding targeted at most vulnerable.
  5. Harnessing undergraduate tutors to teach pupils who have fallen behind.
  6. More technology, including laptops for every child and use of artificial intelligence
  7. Focus on mental health, including wellbeing survey.
  8. Reformulate teaching as a career with better development and more avenues for progression.
  9. Reform of schools regulator Ofsted to make it more collaborative.
  10. Make teachers more aware of how to identify pupils with special education needs.
  11. New university campuses created in 50 higher education “cold spots” and better pay and conditions in further education.
  12. A longer-term and more apolitical view of education with a 15-year strategy.
Updated: June 15, 2022, 1:40 PM
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