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.



As usual this week has been a busy one for the Linking London team. We are thrilled to (quietly) announce that our joint NCOP bid with Access HE and Aimhigher London South has been successful. This means that together we will run one of the new HEFCE funded National Collaborative Outreach Programmes, starting in January next year. Following this good news we met with our neighbouring networks on Monday to discuss more detailed plans for the project.

On Tuesday we held our first IAG Practitioner event of the academic year, which featured speakers from CLC, Goldsmiths University of London, and the Student Loans Company. The event was extremely well attended (there were barely enough seats) and discussions included modes of outreach, degree apprenticeships and unconditional offers.

Wednesday was the date of the ‘Evaluation of the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCOs)’, which was held by London Metropolitan University.  Emily, our NNCO Project Officer, described the key points raised at the event upon her return:

“Overall all networks have had the focus of working in partnership collaboratively to help learners find out about HE and progress. As a result better relationships have been forged, learners and advisers have had their understanding and knowledge enhanced, and engagement has increased. The additional money from HECFE has enabled lots of innovative activities to take place.”

On Thursday Andrew (Deputy Director) met up with Birkbeck’s Caroline McDonald (Head of Widening Access and Retention) to discuss the university’s work with BTEC learners and their innovative Birkbeck Skills Programme.

On a final note we have been sending out even more copies of Andrew’s Studying Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions guide for Access learners this week. Any Linking London partners who would like copies of the guide should contact our team as soon as possible ( – they are proving rather popular!

More from myself and the team next week.


Hello Readers

Our Director Sue made her second partner visit of the academic year this week – she visited King’s College London on Monday afternoon, and later in the week attended a meeting with London Councils where their associate membership of Linking London was renewed for a second year.

Sue and Deputy Director Andrew attended a book launch on Thursday evening; they contributed a chapter to the publication: ‘A Race to the Top: achieving three million more apprenticeships by 2020’.



The two were up bright and early on Friday morning to attend the final ESRC HIVE PED event ‘Where do we go from here?’. The event was hosted by our partners Greenwich University and Sue featured as a panel member!



Back in the office Andrew has been working on our collaborative IAG offer, which will support partner colleges with HE events and personal statement surgeries. His Access to HE Student Guide for Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Health has finally arrived and we are thrilled with the look (and the content) of the publication. Boxes have been sent to all partner colleges which have a Health Access provision.



The entire team (apart from Stuart, who is still away on honeymoon) attended our NNCO Steering Group Meeting, along with representatives from the University of Westminster, Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, Bromley College and UEL. This was our second to last steering group meeting, as the NNCO finishes at the end of the year. However, Emily and I have been busy preparing NNCO Guides for each of the subject specific events we have held (or plan to hold). These publications will be launched at the close of the project in December, and will cover Business, Art & Design, Psychology and Computing. Emily is also making the final plans for our upcoming NNCO Learner Journey event, to which places are still available if you wish to attend and have not yet booked.

On a final note, Emily visited our partners at GSM London this week to discuss their ‘Strengths Based Leaning’ scheme. We hope to find ways of incorporating this positive approach to students and their abilities (as opposed to the normal deficit model) into our HECAIL personal statement tool. There are a total of 34 identifiable strengths including empathy, positivity and focus.

More from myself and the team next week.



Now that term has well and truly started, we have been out and about this week at a variety of partner visits and meetings, while organising publication of the resources we have developed over the summer period.

Sue (Director) and Andrew (Deputy Director) travelled to City and Islington College for the first partner visit of the academic year. Andrew also visited Goldsmiths University of London to discuss future collaborative work with Linking London partner colleges.

Back in the office Andrew has been putting the finishing touches to our new Adviser Guide to Sports HE, which will be completed ready for partner distribution next month. The updated student guide for Access Learners applying to nursing, midwifery and allied health professions courses is due in the office any day now, and multiple copies will be sent out to Access tutors at partner colleges over the coming week.

Sue attended the steering group for one of our NNCO projects – Reaching East and Reaching London – at UEL, and has been busy finalising the 2016-17 Linking London Business Plan. Sue also attended the HE in London Management Group along with Emily (NNCO Project Officer).  Over the summer several new resources have been added to the HE in London website, including a Higher Education Activity Planner and three case study films which are designed to help advisers plan their outreach activities.

Emily has been orchestrating the introduction of the personal statement tool to our NNCO website HECAIL, which was trialled in a very successful pilot scheme last year. She has also been preparing for the NNCO Learner Journey event which is taking place on the 17th October. Places are still available for any interested practitioners, and as an NNCO event it is open to both partners and  non-partners! To book a place please click here.

Finally, congratulations are in order for Office Manager Stuart, as he got married at the weekend!  Stuart has been with Linking London from the very beginning, and I’m sure you will all join us in wishing him, and his new wife, well.

More news and updates from myself and the team next week.


Hello Readers

The summer is nearly over, and the Linking London office is gearing up for a brand new term of staff development events. Yet though term is yet to begin, the news never sleeps, and so we once more have collated a summary of the week’s educational news for your reading pleasure.


Once again apprenticeships are making headlines: FE Week reported that 16-18 apprentices have had their funding cut by roughly 30%, with learners in more deprived areas of London seeing cuts of up to 50%.This revelation led former HE minister, David Lammy, to criticise the Prime Minister (again in FE Week), describing the cuts as “devastating for young people in deprived areas”.

Linking London has also noticed a decrease in sponsored degree programmes, with providers reclassifying their ‘work and learn’ qualifications as apprenticeships to avoid the new levy.  If the government’s apprenticeship target is only met by reclassifying existing programmes and cutting funds to others then surely the achievement will be undermined by the cost?

Progress 8

GCSEs have featured heavily in the press over the last week, partly due to results day, but also because of the new GCSE grading system, Progress 8, since the first qualifications under the new scheme are due to be awarded next year.  The Telegraph dedicated a feature to the new grading system, explaining the relationship between the previous A-C  grades and the new numerical ones:

“It is thought that roughly the same number of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above, while the top 20 per cent of those who get a grade 7 and above, will get a grade 9. Grade 5 – equivalent to a low B or high C – will be the new benchmark for a “good pass” required by league tables, where currently the required grade is C.”

When mapping 2017 entry criteria Linking London has noticed some institutions equating 4 as the C ‘baseline’ equivalent, and others cite 5 as the criteria. When unis compare A-C grades with 1-9 ones who will the comparison benefit? Will it be easier or harder to achieve the grade necessary to progress to FE, and thus HE? Only time will tell. If you want to know more about Progress 8, TES have created a guide to the new qualification.


London is officially the most educated city in Europe, according to the BBC. In terms of graduate numbers “It is above anywhere in the European Union and unlike anywhere else in the United Kingdom”. We have always known London was an intellectual hub, but it is heartening to have our thoughts confirmed. Linking London exists to support institutions in the capital, who in turn support these vast quantities of students, gradually increasing social mobility through the power of education.

More from the team next week.



This week the education press has been awash with Results Day facts, figures and theories, so we thought we would offer you a bumper blog post on all things results-day-related.

A Level Focus

A Levels have, predictably, been the focus of the results day headlines, partly this will be because BTEC learners do not have an official results day, and partly because A Levels are always the focal qualification in progression features, as they are seen as the ‘norm’.

So what were the A Level Headlines this year?

The Evening Standard Reported that the “gap between girls and boys getting the top grades at A-level has fallen to its lowest for at least 10 years” In fact more boys achieved the coveted A* grade than girls this year.

Although a record number of HE places have been offered this year, the BBC has reported that fewer students achieved the top A* and A grades than in 2015, though the overall pass rate stayed at last year’s figure of 98.1%

The Telegraph produced a useful chart which depicted the best and worst performing A Levels of the year. Pass rates for History, Economics and Politics have plummeted, while Maths and Language subjects have seen strong pass rates in 2016, despite reports that Language A Levels are declining in popularity.

What about BTEC?

Articles featuring BTEC learners have, as previously mentioned, been rather thin on the ground.  Luckily Pearson, the BTEC awarding body, is one of Linking London’s partners, and their team kindly provided us with the findings of a recently published Social Market Foundation Report ‘Passports to Progress’ which focuses on vocational qualifications

100,000 students progressing to HE now have a BTEC qualification – double the amount recorded 8 years ago.

This means 1 in 4 HE learners has a BTEC.

Between 2008-2015 the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering HE with A levels increased by 19%, compared to the 116% increase seen by BTEC learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.


To summarise A Levels have retained their pass rate but not the top grades, though the gender gap is narrowing and progression to HE is strong.

Although BTEC students have largely been absent from the news a quarter of students progressing to HE hold a BTEC qualification. More students from disadvantaged backgrounds are entering HE than ever before (the TES reports they are 81% more likely to apply than 10 years ago) and this widening participation success is largely due to the BTEC qualification. As the SMF report states: : “For young people taking A levels, prospects for progression into higher education depend heavily on where they are from. For young people taking BTECs, or a combination of BTECs and A levels, entry rates are much more even across areas”

That’s all from our Results Day special, more Linking London news next Monday.


Hello Readers

Though most of the headlines over the past week have been devoted to the Olympic gold-medal-rush (congratulations Team GB), hidden amongst the column inches devoted to sporting spectacle have been some education stories which could have huge implications for our sector. This week our blog unpacks some of the biggest education stories of the past seven days.

National Student Survey

The results of HEFCE’s 2016 National Student Survey were published last week, with 86% of undergraduates in the final year of Higher Education responding that they are satisfied with their university programme. Out of Linking London’s partners, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was within the top 20 institutions for student satisfaction, and UEL were named as having one of the largest increases in satisfaction year on year (up 5%).

Several Further Education Colleges achieved 100% student satisfaction for their HE provision. Many of Linking London’s FEC partners provide Higher Education qualifications, and we hope this success in the National Student Survey will shine a brighter light on the importance of the provision colleges offer for HE students. Our colleagues as the Association of Colleges were also thrilled, with David Corke, Director of Education Policy at the AoC, stating on the their site:

“The colleges that provide higher education work very hard to ensure they are providing a quality service to their students and the local community and it is gratifying to see that students themselves say they are pleased with the education they receive.”

Apprenticeship Levy Update

On Friday the government published guidance on how the new Apprenticeship Levy would operate. The update is available to read in full here. TES have also published a handy 9 point guide to the update and its implications for the sector. Although the report indicates the levy is still set to be introduced next April, FE Week has reported that the CBI’s director for employment and skills doubts the new system will be ready for successful delivery by the deadline.

Our NNCO website HECAIL contains a free guide to Degree and Higher Apprenticeships, while Linking London members can access the partner area of our website to find our other published resources on Apprenticeships.

A Level Results Day

As we all know, A Level results day is fast approaching this week, and many publications have featured stories telling students how to survive the day – whether their results are better or worse than expected.  The Independent’s ‘A-level results day: the 5 things students should not do’ could be useful for advisers who are trying to calm anxious students, and the Guardian has a feature dedicated to Clearing success stories which some may find helpful. For readers seeking a summary of UCAS Clearing and UCAS Extra, we have a guide available in the ‘After Application’ section of our NNCO website.

That’s all our headlines for this week, more news from us to come next Monday.


As I write this the votes have been counted and the internet is abuzz with reactions to the EU Referendum. Now that the UK’s exit from the EU is inevitable, the Education Sector has to ask itself: where do we go from here?

The result may not be what London voted for, but the capital has been outvoted by its country. Linking London has collated the reactions of partner institutions, the educational press, and other significant sector institutions, so that readers can follow the ongoing HE and FE discussion, as we all forge a path forward in the wake of the result.

University Responses:

The Russell Group


King’s College London

Birkbeck University of London

Central School of Speech and Drama



Media Responses

Wonkhe – live blog

Wonkhe – The morning after the referendum the night before

THE – Brexit vote sparks huge uncertainty for UK universities

The Telegraph – EU referendum: How the results compare to the UK’s educated, old and immigrant populations

The Independent – EU referendum: Half of top UK graduate employers will cut recruitment in case of Brexit result

The Independent – Academics fear new Brexit – a brain exit – after referendum vote

Moving On Magazine – With the UK having voted to leave the EU, how will Brexit affect apprenticeships?

TES – Don’t let Brexit delay the apprenticeship levy, warns the AELP

FE News – How will Brexit affect the FE sector?


Organisation Responses

Universities UK statement on the outcome of the EU referendum

NUS responds to EU Referendum result

AoC response to EU referendum result


Hello followers!

We hope your first week back after Half Term has gone smoothly, and that you have been enjoying the brief moments of sunshine among the storms! This week our NNCO Officer Emily joined HE in London’s Dr Camilla Mount at the UCAS Adviser Conference ‘Inspiring Choices and Progression to HE’.

Camilla at the UCAS conference

Camilla at the UCAS conference

The event was well attended, and issues raised included the decoupling of A Levels , and the  increase in FE-HE transition activity.  They gleaned some useful facts and figures on Apprenticeships too:


  • 27,000 Apprenticeships are advertised daily
  • 500,000 learners began studying for an Apprenticeship in 2013-2014
  • The average wage for a professional level Apprentice is £257 a week

On Thursday Andrew (Deputy Director) chaired our final IAG practitioner group meeting of the academic year, with presentations from London South Bank University, Prospects, and the Student Loans Company. Delegates discussed current outreach projects and examples of best practice.



Director Sue attended the Strategic Planning Group for the HIVE-PED series on vocational pedagogy this Friday, which was run by our partners the University of Greenwich.  She has also been busy working on the London NCOP bid, which is due on Friday 1st July!



Emily is preparing for Linking London’s NNCO Conference, and hopes you will join us for this free event on the 23rd June at Birkbeck University, aimed at London practitioners who aid learners in their progression to HE.

On a final note, our team are participating in an office sweepstake for the European Football Championship – I don’t hold out much hope, having selected Croatia, Hungary and Italy. Andrew, who picked Germany, is feeling rather more confident.

That’s all for this week, click follow for email blog updates!