The government is developing a new set of qualifications as an alternative choice, post sixteen, for those who do not want to choose the more academic route of A Levels.
The new qualifications; T Levels, have been designed to replace the random assortment of vocational and technical qualifications already on offer to those who want more technical and practical subjects and approaches to learning. It is set to be offered by 2020.
The T Levels will offer subjects similar to those available through courses such as BTEC, for example. They will include Childcare and Education, Construction and Digital, and are intended to provide a more practical learning experience including apprenticeships, on-the-job learning opportunities and increased understanding of finance and accounting, engineering and industry, creativity and design.
The Prime Minister says that these new qualifications are the most significant reform to technical education in seventy years and will provide a high quality, technical alternative to A Levels. And they are particularly designed to give young people the skills needed to compete in global industry.
The education secretary, Damian Hinds, believes that a valuable choice post sixteen has been lacking, with the many technical courses being regarded as inferior to more academic routes. He believes that these new qualifications will change that by offering a recognised technical qualification of value. And end the stigmas attached to them.
At first glance they look to be the welcome provision of work place skills some employers feel their new recruits are lacking, plus an opportunity to learn and gain skills in more practical ways.
However, despite what government officials maintain, it’s hard to see how changing the name of technical qualifications will change the status of them in the eyes of many. And it also remains to be seen whether the content will be as practical as is hoped, with minimal academic requirements, and not turn out to have as heavy an academic demand as A Levels in order to gain valued marks, as BTECs sometimes do.
As well as those considerations it means that teachers and learning providers, who are already stretched, will have yet new curricula to get their heads round and deliver when they are increasingly overloaded, which is bound to affect quality.
The Independent reports that the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, feels it is not possible to develop these courses to the standard required by the time suggested and this is instead a strategy to mask the shambles surrounding education which exists already, along with a further burden on taxpayers’ money.
As with most changes in education these new T Levels will no doubt provoke much argument and back biting among various political parties! Sadly, this may well at the expense of the learners once again.
For, as with the implementation of any new courses, the success of them lies with the interpretation and delivery of them by the providers and ultimately the learner’s experience. It will only be time that illustrates those outcomes and the learners’ responses that will indicate whether it was all worth it!