T-Levels have been introduced by Chancellor Philip Hammond to overhaul how technical education is taught and administered in the hope that they will be viewed with the same esteem as A-levels.
Extra funding of £500m a year is being spent to ensure that vocational education becomes an attractive option for young people and employers alike.
“England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available – many of them of little value,” said the budget document.
There will now be just 15 courses: construction, childcare and education, engineering and manufacturing, business and administrative, creative and design, digital, social care, health and science, transport and logistics, agricultural, environmental and animal care, marketing and procurement, sales, catering and hospitality, legal, hair and beauty, finance and accounting, and protective services.
Students will be taught core subjects such as English, maths, and digital skills, as well as the specialised skills necessary for their chosen field. Each student will do a three-month work placement as part of their course.
Courses of this kind with study based and employer based training are close to successful technical education systems in Europe. The UK is now near the bottom of the international league table for technical education, being ranked 16th out of 20 developed economies when it comes to the percentage of its population with a worthwhile technical education.
Accenture’s Emma McGuigan said, “Currently, a significant proportion of young people, especially girls, are put off by Stem [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] subjects because they are unclear about what careers they support, while the perception that these subjects are just for boys persists.”
How could long ingrained ways of thinking be altered?
- Schools: If teachers show support for new T-levels and really acknowledge them as a fair alternative to the traditional A-level, it may help rid the belief that technical education is only for students who struggle academically. Schools will now have to let other education providers in to talk to students about options post 16. Students should be able to hear about alternatives to the traditional sixth form and university path advice.
- Parents: Parents often persuade or dissuade their own children from a certain path, depending on the path they chose to go down themselves. If parents are taught the facts about what options are available to their children, they may be able to offer a more helpful and diverse opinion, and not stick to what they believe is a ‘safe’ option. A parent’s input is crucial to a child’s decision, and ideally parents will help their child to understand what they excel in and what job sector they could flourish in.
- Media: The media has a big role to play in educating not only children, but parents and teachers, and could help by providing all of the information and not paying favour towards a certain education system. The media has the ability to speak directly to the future generation, making via newspapers exclusively for children, and this platform could be utilised effectively.
A new technical education could be the answer to our nation’s skill gap in technical sectors. If children know the facts, they are given a voice, and a chance to make an informed decision that could lead to future success.
David Lewis, managing director, integra people, warrington