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What Are ‘T Levels’ and Why They Have Been Introduced | Red Flag Alert

What Are ‘T Levels’ and Why They Have Been Introduced | Red Flag Alert

T Levels are 2-year courses that are equivalent to 3 A Levels and designed to provide students with the skills demanded by industry. T Levels will offer students classroom learning and 45 days of on-the-job experience with an employer.

Students graduating from a T Level course should do so with the skills and experience to find skilled employment, go on to further study or a higher apprenticeship. The plan is for students to choose from the following subjects:

  • Accountancy
  • Agriculture, Land Management and Production
  • Animal Care and Management
  • Building Services Engineering
  • Catering
  • Craft and Design
  • Cultural Heritage and Visitor Attractions
  • Design, Development and Control
  • Design, Surveying and Planning
  • Digital Business Services
  • Digital Production, Design and Development
  • Digital Support and Services
  • Education
  • Financial
  • Hair, Beauty and Aesthetics
  • Health
  • Healthcare Science
  • Legal
  • Maintenance, Installation and Repair
  • Management and Administration
  • Manufacturing and Process
  • Media, Broadcast And Production
  • Onsite Construction
  • Science

T Levels will kick off in September 2020 with courses in three subjects:

  • Digital Production, Design and Development
  • Design, Surveying and Planning
  • Education

Where Did This Idea Come From?

Overhauling post-16 education is a huge undertaking. Engaging colleges, employers and most importantly students to invest time and resources into a brand-new set of qualifications is challenging. T Levels were conceived after a paper published in July 2016 called the ‘Post-16 Skills Plan’.

Lord Sainsbury conducted this review of Technical Education aimed at improving a technical/vocational path that is not adequately equipping students with the skills needed for the workplace.

The plan describes a ‘reformed skills system’ that has distilled best practice from other countries that are successful in this type of provision. According to the Skills Plan, successful implementation requires four principles to be achieved:

1.      Employers must engage by helping define the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for skilled employment.

2.      Technical education needs to be really engaging and appeal to a wide-range of students, not just be seen as a fallback option for less academic pupils.

3.      The system needs to ensure that many more students achieve the standards prescribed by industry.

4.      The system needs to promote collaboration between colleges and employers so they fit together and provide a coherent training experience.

It is an ambitious, but important plan – there is undeniably a problem so it’s right that it should be addressed.

T Level Key Information at a Glance

  • They will be rolled out between September 2020 and September 2022.
  • Courses are post-GCSE and run for two years; they are an alternative to A Levels.
  • Courses will include 45 days of on-the-job training that is highly specific to the course and delivered at a partner employer.
  • The overall course will be 1,800 hours, which is a significant increase on current technical education.
  • It is more classroom-focused than current apprenticeships that are 80 per cent on the job.
  • The courses will ensure that students reach a minimum standard in English and Maths.

The Importance of Industry Placements

Because these courses will be delivered primarily by colleges (unlike Apprenticeships where classroom learning is a small element), they will need to build relationships with employers to provide placements that enhance the learning experience.

This is widely recognised as an important challenge in the successful implementation of T Level qualifications. It is understood that employers are going to be offered a ‘package of support’ to provide the qualification and Education Secretary Damian Hinds called this ‘the heart’ of the T Level proposition.

Hinds said that high-quality placements will “set these courses apart from every attempt to reform technical and vocational education in the past 70 years”.

New guidance has been developed that suggests placements can be with more than one employer and there will be provision for students with part-time jobs or caring responsibilities. The government is also looking at financial support and training for employers: this support followed a pilot programme for 1,500 students.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, welcomes these steps: “The new flexibilities directly address our concerns about students with caring responsibilities and part-time work. The new approach will allow more young people to study for a T Level and benefit from a placement.”

From the business side, Jane Gratton, Head of Policy at the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “Business has long called for a high-quality vocational alternative to A levels to ensure young people are work-ready and have greater technical skills and knowledge when they join the workforce. T Level industry placements are crucial to developing these enhanced skills, and the greater support and flexibility will enable firms of all sizes to open their doors to young people, introduce them to exciting careers on offer in the local area, and identify a great pipeline of future talent.”

It seems that colleges and employers are making the right noises and the pilot programme has led to some important iterations – clearly the biggest challenge of a successful T Level roll-out is engaging the right employers at scale.

You can read more about the government’s key principles for industry placements here (updated after the pilot here).

The Providers

See below for a detailed list of providers and the T Level courses they are offering in September 2020:

Access Creative College
West Midlands
Courses: Digital

Barnsley College
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Bedfordshire & Luton Education Business Partnership
East of England
Courses: Digital

Bishop Burton College
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Education

Blackpool and The Fylde College
North West
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Bridgwater & Taunton College
South West
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Cardinal Newman College
North West
Courses: Digital, Education

Chichester College Group
South East
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Cirencester College
South West
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

City College Norwich
East of England
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College
West Midlands
Courses: Digital

Cranford Community College
London
Courses: Digital, Education

Derby College
East Midlands
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Dudley College of Technology
West Midlands
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Durham Sixth Form Centre
North East
Courses: Digital

East Sussex College Group
South East
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Exeter College
South West
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Fareham College
South East
Courses: Digital, Education

Farnborough College of Technology
South East
Courses: Digital, Education

Gateshead College
North East
Courses: Digital, Education

Grimsby Institute
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Education

Havant & South Downs College
South East
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

HCUC
London
Courses: Digital, Education

La Retraite RC Girls School
London
Courses: Digital, Education

Lordswood Girls’ School & Sixth Form Centre
West Midlands
Courses: Education

Nelson and Colne College
North West
Courses: Digital, Education

New College Durham
North East
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Digital

Oldham Sixth Form College
North West
Courses: Digital

Painsley Catholic College
West Midlands
Courses: Digital

Peter Symonds College
South East
Courses: Education

Priestley College
North West
Courses: Digital, Education

Runshaw College
North West
Courses: Digital

Salesian School
South East
Courses: Digital, Education

Sandwell Academy
West Midlands
Courses: Digital

Scarborough Sixth Form College
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Shipley College of Further Education
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Digital, Education

St Thomas More Catholic School
North East
Courses: Digital, Education

Strode College
South West
Courses: Digital, Education

Suffolk New College
East of England
Courses: Construction

The College of Richard Collyer
South East
Courses: Digital, Education

The Leigh UTC
South East
Courses: Digital

Thorpe St Andrew School and Sixth Form
East of England
Courses: Digital, Education

Truro and Penwith College
South West
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

University College Birmingham
West Midlands
Courses: Education

Ursuline High School
London
Courses: Digital

Walsall College
West Midlands
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

Walsall Studio School
West Midlands
Courses: Digital

Weston College
South West
Courses: Digital

York College
Yorkshire and the Humber
Courses: Digital, Construction, Education

If you are a college looking to engage the best employers, please get in touch to see how we can help.

Please contact Richard West on richard.west@redflagalert.com or 0344 412 6699 for a free trial of our software that has the most up-to-date information on British business.

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