T-level plans ‘flawed’ says union

NEU says government’s plans for T-levels are flawed

Published on 16th February 2018

The government’s plans for T-levels are flawed, the National Education Union has warned.

In its submission to the Department for Education’s consultation on the implementation of T-levels, the NEU says that while T-levels are desirable, they are not necessarily deliverable. Young people need high quality vocational qualifications, but the government’s T-level plans are flawed

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Because the government has given no indication of how many young people it expects to take T levels, it is impossible to know whether sufficient work placements are likely to be available. If large numbers of students take T-levels, it is highly unlikely that relevant and good quality work placements will be available in the volume required, particularly as young people will be expected to go on placements of up to three months to gain the qualifications.

Dr Bousted added that without knowing proposed student numbers, it is impossible to gauge whether the proposed funding levels are sufficient.

In its submission, the NEU also says:

  • More robust evidence is required for another reform of the skills system and the review of level 3 qualifications proposed.
  • Unless T-level implementation is properly planned, resourced and funded, there is a risk that their standards will be watered down to make existing level 2 qualifications ‘fit’.
  • Young people’s options should not be limited or narrowed at the age of 16; they should have opportunities to study a blend of technical and academic qualifications at level 3.
  • If school sixth forms are only able to offer academic qualifications (A levels) post-16, this will limit opportunities for students living in rural areas as the time and cost of travelling to a Further Education college will be too great for many young people.
  • Written exams are not appropriate for assessing whether the skills, knowledge and experience have been acquired in many technical areas, particularly those that focus on practical skills.

“If few students take T-levels, they will just add another qualification to what government has said is a complicated system of vocational qualifications that it wants to simplify. And low student numbers will do nothing to ensure parity of esteem between academic and technical education,” said Dr Bousted.

“The narrow, academic school curriculum will be a barrier to young people being given the opportunity to take and complete T-levels. This will be exacerbated by the currently poorly funded careers advice and guidance available to students under 16.

“Lessons should be learned from previous vocational education reforms, many of which, such as the 14-19 Diplomas, were subsequently abandoned and failed to create a stable skills system. Otherwise there is a serious risk that yet another generation of young people will leave college with a qualification that has no value,” she concluded.


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