Preparing for T levels

Last Thursday we held our second Linking London T levels event to explore progress to date in T levels development as well as exploring how we as a partnership can work together to help ensure T level learners are supported to progress onto a wide range of higher level learning opportunities.

The event provided an opportunity to briefly reflect on the chequered history of vocational reform in this country over the past thirty years. Those with long memories will remember that back in 1991 the conservative government of the time published the Education in the 21st Century White paper which heralded the introduction of both National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) as well as General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs). Further down the line Advanced Certificates of Vocational Education (AVCEs) were also introduced. The drivers for their introduction could have been written in the context of the introduction of T levels: “We will…establish a framework of vocational qualifications that are widely recognised and used, and that are relevant to the needs of the economy; promote equal esteem for academic and vocational qualifications.” Both GNVQs and AVCEs were discontinued in 2007. In 2008, 14-19 Diplomas were introduced to much fanfare. Linking London worked closely with our partners to raise awareness of the new qualification, focusing on the level 3 Advanced Diploma. We collaborated with our university partners to help identify suitable HE pathways, develop fair admissions processes and helped broker a number of progression agreements between colleges and universities. IAG resources were developed to support Advanced Diploma learners make informed choices post course and several activities were delivered directly to the learners themselves. As well as establishing an Advanced Diploma forum we worked with a number of key stakeholders including local authorities, UCAS and government ministers. While the 14-19 diplomas came to an end in 2013, we feel we learnt a number of valuable lessons which we feel will help us to assist our college and university partners in the context of progression of T level learners onto higher level learning.

Although it may feel a long way off for our HE partners, from September 2021 T level learners will be deciding their next steps post course and for those planning to apply to go on to higher education UCAS applications will be completed. There is much, however, that needs to be finalised before HEIs can make informed decisions on how they will respond to this new qualification. Final content for the first wave of T levels (construction, digital and education and childcare) starting in 2020, won’t be signed off by the DfE until early next year. Until this is made available it will be challenging for HEIs to make any informed decisions on how they will respond to the qualification in terms of appropriate HE pathways and admissions requirements. At present, we also have no further details from the DfE on what the proposed bridging provision, to enable learners to progress from T levels to more academic undergraduate degrees, will look like. Discussions between the DfE and UCAS are still ongoing regarding exactly how UCAS tariff points will be awarded, although we now know that they will be in line with 3 A Levels.

With the clock ticking, Linking London, building on the lessons learnt from the ill-fated 14-19 Diplomas, will be working closely with partners to help ensure that they are kept up to date with the latest T level developments and provide opportunities to work together to effectively prepare for their introduction.