What is the Advanced British Standard? A guide for parents.

Last Updated: 05 Oct 23
Sixth Form students sitting in an exam hall taking public exams.

Rishi Sunak has made a significant announcement, promising to replace A-Levels and T-Levels with a brand-new qualification known as the Advanced British Standard (ABS).

What is the Advanced British Standard?

The ABS is a new qualification designed for 16 to 19-year-olds. It's like a combination of A-Levels and T-Levels, offering a broader and more flexible education. The goal is to remove the current system's limitations and create a single qualification that provides both technical and academic options.

A-levels and T-levels to be replaced

Under the ABS, both A-Levels and T-Levels as separate qualifications will be replaced. Students will typically study at least five subjects, a mix of majors and minors, covering technical and academic areas. Majors will be comparable in depth and rigour to A-Levels, with at least 90% of the content, ensuring they support university progression. However, these changes will take time, possibly up to a decade, depending on political developments.

Consultation and White Paper

Before these changes roll out, there will be a period of consultation with input from students, teachers, schools, colleges, universities, employers, and the public. A white paper will outline the government's plan for implementation next year.

Increased classroom time

Under the new system, post-16 students will spend more time in the classroom, with a minimum of 1,475 taught hours over two years. This is an increase from the current hours for A-Level and technical students.

Investment in teacher recruitment

To ensure there are enough teachers to support these changes, the government plans to invest £600 million over two years. This includes offering £30,000 tax-free bonuses to teachers in eligible shortage subjects, which will also apply to further education colleges.

'Major' and 'Minor' levels

Students will choose a minimum of five subjects. Some may choose to focus on a specific occupation, which could result in four subjects. This flexibility allows students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals.

Maths and English requirement

Everyone will need to study Maths and English until the age of 18, but the level of study may vary. Some will treat it as a major subject, similar to an A-Level, while others will study it at a minor level. The aim is to ensure students have the necessary skills for work and life.

Grading considerations

The government is carefully considering how to design the grading system for the ABS to ensure that employers and universities can understand a student's achievement.

Streamlining GCSEs

Ministers are also looking at improving GCSEs by potentially reducing the number and length of exam papers. Digital solutions, like on-screen assessments, are being explored to make the exams more efficient.

Level 2 Pathway

Students who aren't ready for the Level 3 ABS will have access to a Level 2 pathway with the same minimum hours and high-quality teaching.

Support for GCSE resits

An extra £150 million per year will be dedicated to supporting students who need to retake GCSE Maths or English. This funding aims to improve outcomes for students studying at level 2 or below.

Investment in education

The government is investing £40 million in the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to expand its focus on post-16 education. This includes efforts to narrow the attainment gap and improve Maths education.

These changes signify a significant shift in the education system, aiming to provide students with more choices and opportunities for their future. 

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