Priority 6: Review the curriculum

IMG 0679

Priority 6: Review the curriculum

  • As the government has now conceded, sixth form students in England receive far fewer hours of teaching time than 16 to 19 year olds in other countries, and study a much narrower range of subjects. 

  • This should come as little surprise, given the deep cuts to sixth form funding and the removal of AS levels has led to a narrowing of the sixth form curriculum in almost every college. 

  • To ensure that every student in England receives an internationally-competitive education, the next government should conduct an evidence-based review of the sixth form curriculum. This should form part of a wider review of the curriculum to ensure that a coherent strategy is adopted from the beginning of primary education to the end of sixth form education.  

  • Unlike the consultation for the Advanced British Standard, this review should explore what the sixth form curriculum of the future should look like, not just how a proposed new qualification should be delivered. 

  • But before embarking on the review, the next government should first develop an action plan to address the current challenges faced by colleges and schools in delivering the current curriculum. We cannot ignore the students of today when planning for the students of tomorrow. 

  • For example, we know that sixth form colleges will need an additional £710 per student in 2025 to provide young people with the level of student support and non-qualification time required to support the current number of teaching hours. Addressing this funding gap and tackling the teacher recruitment and retention crisis are the two immediate measures that must be taken to ensure current sixth form students receive the education and support they need.   

  • There is no doubt that the current sixth form curriculum is narrow by international standards and must evolve to meet the many challenges that lie ahead. We would welcome an evidence-based review that draws on the experience of students, and the expertise of practitioners, academics, employers and other stakeholders to establish what the sixth form curriculum of the future (and associated assessment system) should look like.  

  • Achieving this shared vision will require a commitment to listen to the views of leaders and staff in colleges and schools about its design and implementation, a commitment that has been almost entirely absent from the current government’s review of Level 3 qualifications.  

  • In the short to medium term, the current three-route qualification system of A levels, applied general qualifications such as BTECs, and T levels should be retained. A levels and AGQs have only recently undergone a process of reform to make them more rigorous. T levels have struggled to gain traction but with further adaptations and flexibilities have the potential to play a valuable role in the future qualifications landscape.  

  • In the longer term, the number of teaching hours could only be increased after the foundations set out in this manifesto have been put in place: a significant increase in revenue funding (research from London Economics indicates that the rate would have to be raised by £1,760 to provide an additional 2.5 hours of teaching time per week), a significant improvement in teacher recruitment and retention, and a significant increase in the amount and availability of capital funding.  

To read our full manifesto, with details of our five other priorities, click here.

Back to Priority Five

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now