The Advanced British Standard - Ufi’s response to the Department of Education

The Department for Education (DfE) launched a call seeking views to help develop their approach for the Advanced British Standard (ABS). Proposals to introduce the ABS were made by the DfE in October 2023, as a new baccalaureate-style qualification framework for learners aged 16-19.

In the call, the DfE highlight the need for improving education outcomes at each stage. As the 16-19 phase is the last stage of compulsory education, it is the final opportunity to ensure young people gain the right skills and knowledge to progress onto their next steps.

Ufi welcomes the ABS as an opportunity to modernise and update the formal English education system. We believe that reform of the assessment and qualifications system offers an unparalleled opportunity to unlock UK skills and productivity and produce a thriving and sustainable economy.

“The introduction of the Advanced British Standard could mark a pivotal moment in shaping the educational landscape for young learners. Education must acknowledge and accommodate individual needs, and leveraging technology presents an innovative pathway to tailor learning experiences. This especially benefits those in need of additional support, therefore delivering better educational outcomes for all.”

Josh Smith, Head of Public Affairs, Ufi VocTech Trust

Case studies

Our response to the DfE is supported by case studies from several Ufi funded projects operating across the UK, including:

Executive Summary

In redesigning post-16 qualifications, there is a unique chance to tailor curriculum, subject design and teaching delivery methods to meet the complex needs of learners, as well as the evolving requirements of employers in a rapidly transitioning economy. It also presents a golden opportunity to think about the many ways the assessment and awarding of qualifications could be evolved to better suit learners and employer’s needs. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the ABS is designed innovatively, harnessing the powers of technology to transform educational experiences.

The aims and objectives of the ABS are to be largely supported – addressing skills and attainment gaps and ensuring more young people progress into quality work are aimed at the right problem. There are not enough people with the skills the UK needs for the future of work. 82% of businesses identify qualifications and skills as the reason they struggle to find the talent they need, and recruiting skilled staff is the second biggest barrier to SMEs growing their businesses.

The proposed reforms do present some challenges. Currently, too much of the assessment or qualification system is focused on ‘all or nothing’ final exams that often don’t show individuals true capabilities and do not evidence the skills and learning acquired in a way that is useful to future employers. This approach requires a burdensome and intimidating commitment in time and resources that deters individuals and employers from investing in skills throughout their lives. This experience from 16 to 19 often leaves people with a lifelong distaste for learning.

Reforms to curriculum are to be welcomed as they address some of the inflexibility and irrelevance of existing qualifications. The inflexibility of the skills system results in assessment and qualifications that are too rigid in time and scope, with funding that is not financially sustainable for providers. The system has not evolved to keep in step with the wider world and this results in learners who are ill equipped for the workplace, employers who are not able to acquire the skills they need and a student body who are put off future learning.

At Ufi, we believe the solutions to both these problems – the path to creating a more flexible, relevant, and engaging assessment and qualification system – can be found in better use of technology.

Learners benefit profoundly from the incorporation of appropriate technology into education across all levels and styles of subjects, from vocational learning to traditionally academic. Digital tools can transform learning by providing immersive, engaging, and intuitive experiences. Innovations such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality offer exciting prospects for learners, but also education providers in streamlining delivery and tailoring learning. A chief benefit of embedding technology and digital tools into the ABS is its ability to create an individualised, personal learning experience to suit the needs of unique learning styles. A secondary benefit is a learning environment that meets learner expectations and equips individuals with the capacity to utilise tools and develop working styles that are in keeping with modern workplaces.

In an economy which requires modern, vocational skills, embracing technology as a core feature of the ABS’ design and delivery also serves the needs of industry. It is essential that the ABS prepares learners for not only traditional academic pathways into higher education, but also for entering the job market. Robust vocational education designed and delivered in collaboration with employers can help learners to understand the wide array of potential careers available to them and prepare them for a successful transition from post-16 education.

Important too is ensuring that the ABS meets the complex requirements of learners. Education is not a one-size-fits-all, and it is crucial that individual students’ needs and abilities are catered for. Technology provides the innovative opportunity to do so in an engaging, intuitive way. This is particularly important for those who require additional support, whereupon the power of technology can be profoundly transformative.

To discuss Ufi's consultation response please contact Josh Smith, Head of Public Affairs at Ufi, at

To find out more about our systems-based approach to skills, explore our VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition in partnership with Learning and Work Institute (L&W). Together we are exploring how to use technology to help every adult in the UK get the skills they need to participate and benefit from employment.

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