Introducing the Advanced British Standard (ABS): Revolutionising Education for 16-18 Year Olds

In a landmark announcement on the 4th of October 2023, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to bring  in a new era of education with the introduction of the Advanced British Standard (ABS). This  initiative is set to re-define the educational landscape for 16–18-year olds over the coming decade, presenting a ground-breaking  qualification that combines the best aspects of A-levels and T-levels into a combined and comprehensive structure.

The ABS will not only offer a fusion of academic and technical excellence but also pave the way for an occupational specialism route, mirroring the components of T-levels and catering to the diverse needs of students, including those working below Level 3. This strategic move aims to align England's educational framework more closely with leading global economies, where the study of mathematics and the native language persists until the finale of compulsory education.


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Acknowledging the need for substantial investment, the government has committed £600 million as a down payment to fund the additional taught hours required for the ABS. Moreover, the Department for Education is actively engaging in consultations to gather valuable insights from stakeholders before finalising the blueprint in the form of a white paper later this year. The National Hair and Beauty Federation  will take part in this process, ensuring that our sectors educational requirements are met.

Case for Change

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The case for change is compelling. Over the past decade, England has witnessed remarkable progress in driving up educational standards, investing in teacher development, and introducing initiatives such as the EBacc and rigorous A-levels. T-levels, deeply rooted in technical skills, represent yet another milestone in this journey towards educational excellence.

However, despite these strides, England's post-16 education system remains an outlier on the global stage, particularly in terms of subject offerings, teaching hours, and the continuation of mathematics and language studies until the age of 18. Research emphasises the need for a broader subject range and a strong core curriculum in English and mathematics, as many students emerge from compulsory education lacking essential skills. This difference disproportionately affects disadvantaged and special needs students, highlighting the urgency for systemic reform.

Comprehensive approach


The structure of T-levels serves as a cornerstone for the ABS. With approximately 1,800 hours of study over two years, T-levels embody a comprehensive approach to technical education, comprising both a Core Component and Occupational Specialisms. The inclusion of industry placements further enriches the learning experience, allowing students to apply their skills in real-world settings.

Look to the future

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Looking ahead, the ABS promises to revolutionise the educational landscape. By introducing technical and academic majors and minors, along with the concept of 'double majors' for specific occupational routes, the ABS offer unprecedented flexibility and depth of learning. T-levels will remain integral to the technical options within the ABS, ensuring continuity and coherence in educational pathways.

Moreover, the phased defunding of overlapping qualifications underscores the government's commitment to streamlining the qualification landscape, fostering greater clarity for students and educators alike. Collaborative efforts with Awarding Organisations (AOs) and extensive stakeholder consultation will be pivotal in shaping the future route of the ABS.

As the Department for Education forges ahead with the development of the ABS qualification framework, opportunities prosper for stakeholders to contribute their insights and shape the future of education in England. With the forthcoming White Paper set to form these proposals, the journey towards a more inclusive, comprehensive, and globally competitive educational system is well underway.