Background and Introduction
T Level is the handy title the media have given to the government’s new raft of post-16 vocational qualifications – set to be developed and phased in between 2020 and 2022.
The government describes its plans as the ‘biggest overhaul of post-school education in 70 years’, and it will be funded by the promise of £500million a year, once it is up and running.
Initially announced in March’s Budget (2017), Chancellor Philip Hammond stated that he hoped the new qualification would be viewed as being on a par with traditional A Levels.
This has, of course, been tried before (remember the Diplomas launched back in the noughties?), and the fact that A Levels still stand alone as the ‘gold standard’, reveals the level of success these attempts have achieved.
But these T Level qualifications are not being designed to replace the A Level. They will sit alongside, and students will have a post-16 educational choice: The Academic Route (A levels) or the Technical Route (T Levels).
So what form will the T Levels take and how are they different to what is currently on the vocational table?
In order to simplify a very overcrowded qualification sector, the government will create 15 technical routes or sectors, reducing the current 13,000 disparate qualifications to just 15 routes. However, this is slightly misleading as this can’t possibly mean that there will be 15 vocational qualifications! Clearly that would be impossible. For instance, one of the new T Level sectors is Construction. Within Construction there will, presumably, be many different qualification specialities, such as Bricklaying, Building Services Engineering, Architecture, Plastering, Electrician etc. As yet we await further details on what exactly lies within the 15 sectors. Importantly, there is scope for employers and colleges to work together and develop industry relevant standards – so that employers have access to employees equipped with the right skills.
T Level courses will last for two years. To use the Construction example once again, in year one students will learn core construction skills, such as health and safety, project management, sustainability etc. In the second year students will focus on their chosen speciality e.g. carpentry, bricklaying etc.
The proposed 15 T Level Sectors are:
Agriculture, Environmental and Animal are
Business and Administrative
Catering and Hospitality
Childcare and Education
Creative and Design
Engineering and Manufacturing
Hair and Beauty
Health and Science
Legal, Finance and Accounting
Sales, Marketing and Procurement
Transport and Logistics
It is easy to see exactly how people will be confused by the new vocational qualifications. Whilst attempting to tidy and compartmentalise this overcrowded area, this new range of qualifications is also adding to the long list, and stepping on the toes of existing qualifications.
For instance Tech Levels already exist and are measured within performance tables. Subjects that meet certain vocational standards are labelled ‘Tech Levels’.
There is also the TechBacc that sits above the Tech Levels, also as a performance measure. To achieve a TechBacc students must gain a Tech Level qualification, a level 3 maths qualification, and successfully complete an extended project.
But these are not T Levels. Presumably, T Levels will be labelled as Tech Level and form part of the TechBacc?
T Level is also a brand of very trendy urban luggage – I discovered this when carrying out my research.
You can see how people might become confused.
But, let’s be positive – The new T Levels are designed to organise the current mish-mash of vocational qualifications in such a way as to ensure that employer and industry skills needs are being met and so that skills gaps can be easily identified and addressed. It is important that vocation qualifications, alongside apprenticeships, are viewed as an equally viable alternative to A Levels, rather than as the poor relation – as they are now.
This process will also involve educating students, parents, teachers, advisers and employers alike.
So, at the moment we wait to see exactly how T Levels will be implemented – and maybe IF they will be implemented. Their implementation very much rests with this government, and so possibly you should watch this space to see how things develop.