New ‘T-Levels’ aim to boost UK technical education
The man responsible for the UK’s finances, Chancellor Philip Hammond, issued the nation’s 2017 budget last week. In his budget speech, he acknowledged that the UK trails much of the rest of the world when it comes to post-16 education in vocational subjects. In an effort to tackle this problem and boost the nation’s productivity, he plans to overhaul how technical education is administered and taught.
The new qualifications are dubbed ‘T-levels’ to put them on an equal footing with A-levels, the academic qualifications that many 16- to 19-year-olds take in England and Wales. T-levels are an alternative to A-levels for those who seek to gain vocational rather than academic skills.
Currently the vocational training options for school-leavers in the UK are numerous and confusing, with over 13,000 qualifications available, many of which are, by the Chancellor’s own admission, “of little value”. He proposes replacing the complex and inadequate status quo with just 17 qualifications he hopes will cover all the bases.
The new qualifications will be:
- Environmental and animal care
- Business and administrative
- Catering and hospitality
- Childcare and education
- Creative and design
- Engineering and manufacturing
- Hair and beauty
- Health and science
- Finance and accounting
- Protective services
- Sales, marketing and procurement
- Social care
- Transport and logistics.
Within each subject route students will be taught general core skills such as English, Maths and digital skills alongside the specialist skills they will need for their chosen vocation. Each course will include a 3-month work placement to emulate the successful German model which blends college-based and employer-based learning. The new qualifications will average 900 hours a year, an increase of 50% over previous programmes. After qualifying, students will be able to progress to a variety of higher-level technical education programmes, degree apprenticeships and apprenticeships.
“There is still a lingering doubt about the parity of esteem attaching to technical education,” said Mr Hammond in his budget speech. While the academic route through education, from GCSEs to A-levels and on, is well-regarded, more needs to be done for technical education, says the budget document on the subject.
Mr Hammond is not the first British politician to try to improve the UK’s vocational education offer. Many previous plans have failed in making post-16 non-academic education an attractive prospect for young people. T-levels are a attempt to raise the perceived level of technical training to equal that of academic paths.