This week, the first full cohort of students took their government-backed T Level qualifications.
In 2020, around 1,300 students started their first three T levels and over 5,000 enrolled in 2021. From September, 17 subjects will be offered at more than 175 colleges and schools across England.
While the number is set to rise to 400 by September 2023, and with more high-profile employers than ever backing the route, including the recently announced partnership with Specsavers, more needs to be done to raise awareness the technical equivalent of A Levels.
To better understand the benefits that T Levels can offer, we sat down with two pioneers who have been closest to them since their inception, but from very different perspectives.
Ellie Hearn has just completed her T-Level in Childcare and Education and is planning to study Primary Education at Brighton University from September.
Zac Aldridge is the education charity’s director of qualifications and assessment and NCFE’s vocational training leader, who was chosen by the government to spearhead the development of the qualification.
Q: What are the benefits of choosing a T level over another option or job?
Eli: “I loved the way I could gain industry experience before taking up a job or internship in the teaching sector, while learning key knowledge and information to help me learn about teaching in detail.
“I wanted to go into the teaching profession from a very early age, however my education did not give me the skills I needed to become a primary school teacher. T Level is also a good mix of both academic and practical learning. I love how it combines the two.”
Zack: “I think the main benefits should be employer involvement and industry placement. From the outset, qualifications are designed with current and future skills needs in mind and are truly designed by the employers they are designed for.”
Q: What skills do students develop while studying T Level?
Eli: “I became more confident in myself. I came from another high school and was put into a T Level class not knowing anyone, but I came out with a group of 12 good friends! During the employer project, I developed research tools that will help me at university and during my internship.
“I also developed my communication skills by talking to children, parents and professionals. The placement also allowed me to develop professional relationships with the teaching staff, which helped me develop my skills significantly!”
Zack: “The Level 3 Technical Qualification in Education and Childcare equips students with all the knowledge, skills and behaviors they need to move on to skilled work or higher level training in the education and childcare sector.
“We also learned from feedback that students can really develop their key transferable skills, such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork and resilience, particularly through internships. It helps set them up for the next steps in life.”
Q: What have been the highlights of your T level experience over the past two years?
Eli: “I loved my level T. A ‘wow’ moment for me during my placement was when an autistic child who is mute said a few words to me during a lesson. It was such a rewarding moment that was just the beginning of a rewarding career. I really enjoyed the babysitting assignments. I love seeing how they progress in their development and how they change every day.”
Zack: “It was definitely important to hear directly from T Level students like Ellie about their experiences. We have also been fortunate to have students come and perform at our internal events, who have impressed us with their enthusiasm, confidence and ambition.
“Other milestones for us included being selected as the Awarding Organization (AO) for what is now nine of the T levels, with the latest additions: Hairdressers, Hair and Beauty Services, Media , broadcasting and production, and craft and design. . This makes us the largest AO for T level in the country.”
Q: Did your T levels live up to your expectations?
Eli: “Exploring the level of education and childcare was what I expected and more! It allowed me to grow not only as a person, but also as a future teacher. All in all, I don’t think I could have learned as much if I had chosen A Levels or an apprenticeship.’
Zack: “I’m delighted to hear from Ellie that the qualification has set her up for the future. T-levels are an integral part of the government’s ambitions to raise the standard and develop a world-leading skills economy. I am delighted to see that further and technical education is being given such positive prominence as part of this positive new journey. For me, T Levels exceeded our expectations.”
Q: What are the next steps for you on your journey?
Ellie: “I’ve now confirmed my place at Brighton University to study Primary Education with QTS, which I’m really excited about. I received four other offers, including one that was an integrated master’s course and two unconditional offers.
“My dream job is to be a primary school teacher for around 2 years, although I have also considered a role as a special educational needs and/or disability co-ordinator. This is such an interesting and rewarding role! Special Educational Needs is something I really became passionate about during my internship.”
Zack: “As I mentioned earlier, the NCFE has just received three new T-levels which will be available for first delivery from September 2023, so we are focusing a lot of our efforts on developing these fantastic new qualifications.
“We also work closely with our current providers to support them in their T-level delivery, ensuring all students have an experience like Eli’s. Finally, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness of T-levels so that they are truly seen by all as a quality option for post-16 school leavers.
“In particular, we will be looking to increase employer appetite for T-levels, particularly in the area of employment.”
To find out more about NCFE’s T Levels, visit https://www.ncfe.org.uk/technical-education/t-levels/
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