The New T Levels

T Levels are vocational A-levels for 16-19 year olds focussed on general career areas. They run over two years and are mainly taught in colleges and including 45 days on the job training.

They have been developed in collaboration with businesses and are designed to give students the knowledge and skills they need for work or further study. One T-level qualification is equivalent in UCAS points to three A-levels.

The introduction of T-Levels represent a significant effort by the UK government to improve both the standard and status of Vocational Education In England and Wales.

There are several T-Levels currently available, with more to be released for first teaching in September 2022 and they are very broad in scope, with qualifications being offered in such areas as:

  • agriculture, land management and production
  • building services engineering for construction
  • catering
  • craft and design
  • education and childcare (now available)
  • finance
  • hair, beauty and aesthetics
  • legal
  • management and administration
  • media, broadcast and production
  • science

A full list of T Level Qualifications, 2021

T Levels are designed to give students a third option of study after GCSE, alongside Apprenticeships and A-levels, in fact they seem designed to fit mid way between the two, being more academic than apprenticeships (more classroom based learning) and more hands-on than A-levels.

Design and Delivery

The content of each T-level varies a lot, and there is a lot of content in each – the Digital Production T level specification, designed by Pearsons has a 100 page specification, for example.

The content will be delivered primarily by FE colleges, but also local employers will have to get involved for the 45 days work experience component.

Interestingly there are no national requirements to get onto T Levels, the government has left it to individual colleges to decide on entry requirements.

Each T-level has three components:

  • General competencies – English, Maths and Digital Literacy
  • A Core component – focussing on Business related content/ legal issues which are common across several different T-levels
  • A subject specific component – specific to whatever the T level is!

Assessment

This might vary from T level to T level but the ones I have reviewed have a mixture of assessment by examination, coursework and project work.

For more information the government web site on T-Levels is a good starting point.

T Levels: Positive Evaluations so far

  • T Levels seem to be a good compromise between purely academic A-levels and Apprenticeships which are much more on the job and much less academic.
  • The fact that businesses have had a say in designing the specifications means students should leave college at 18 better prepared for work, which could be good for the economy.
  • The ones I’ve looked at seem to have rigorous specifications and assessment, which should give these new vocational qualifications status.
  • They offer students more flexibility than either and apprenticeship or pure A-levels when they finish – either to work or to university.
  • The fact that there are components common to several T Levels means it’s easier for colleges to deliver them.

Personally I’m more inclined to see T-Levels as a net positive, but there are some potential problems…

T-Levels: Potential Problems

  • These are asking students to specialise from a very young age, at the age of 16, and once they’re a few months in they are pretty much ‘locked into’ that path.
  • There might be something of a shortage of employers willing to provide training places for 45 days, or three months.
  • There could be a shortage of teachers in colleges capable of delivering some of the subject specific knowledge. For example, one of the T-levels has modules in ‘data science’ – most data scientists are working in industry, they aren’t going to take a 50% pay cut to go teach in a college.
  • Many industries move very quickly. It could be challenging keeping teachers in college updated with the relevant knowledge and training to deliver appropriate content in some of these career areas.
  • Some of them probably won’t be very popular – Human Resources in particular springs to mind!

Signposting

This is a useful update for students studying the compulsory module in Education, usually taught in the first year of A-level Sociology.

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