Two years of T Levels: Reflections by our Director of Qualifications and a student
As our first full cohort of students complete their studies, we’re proud and excited to be celebrating two years of T Levels. We’ve witnessed some incredible successes since their launch. Around 1,300 students commenced the first three T Levels in 2020, a further 5,450 signed up in 2021, and a total of 10 subjects are now on offer at over 100 colleges and schools. What’s more, we’ve seen over 500 students with live university applications from the many that have now put their faith in T Levels.
And it doesn’t end there – it continues to be an exciting time for T Levels, with more big-name employers than ever before supporting this route. We've worked with over 45 sector bodies, employers, expert practitioners and training providers to develop the technical qualification that underpins the Education and Childcare T Level.
To celebrate, we wanted to reflect on the impact that these technical qualifications have had over the past 24 months by speaking with those who have been closest to them. Here, we hear from two individuals who come from different perspectives to share their unique experience of T Levels so far:
- Ellie Hearn, a student who has just completed her Education and Childcare T Level qualification following two years of study
- Zac Aldridge, our Director of Qualifications and Assessment here at NCFE.
Q: What are the benefits of choosing to take a T Level instead of another option or work?
Ellie: I loved how I could get experience in the industry before settling into a job or apprenticeship in the teaching sector, whilst also learning key knowledge and information to help me explore teaching in a lot of detail. I’ve wanted to go into the teaching profession since I was very young – however, an apprenticeship wasn't going to give me the skills I needed to become a primary school teacher. The T Level is also a good mix of both academic and hands-on learning. I love how it combines both.
Zac: I think the main benefits have to be the employer involvement and industry placement. From the outset, the qualifications are created with current and future skills needs in mind and they’re genuinely developed by the employers they’re designed to serve. As Ellie mentioned, the 45 days of industry placement is invaluable in providing that practical experience alongside the theory.
Q: And from a learner point of view, why is gaining industry experience so important?
Ellie: The industry experience is a massive part of why I chose the T Level. Work experience is such an important time – however, you can only learn so much over one or two weeks. When you’re seeing and are involved in the industry as part of their day-to-day timetable, you get to see different events throughout the year as well as getting the opportunity to do more, such as going on school trips.
Q: What are the skills that students will develop whilst studying a T Level?
Ellie: During my time on my placement and in the classroom, I’ve become more confident. Coming from a different high school, I was put into a T Level class not knowing anyone but have come out with a group of 12 good friends! During the employer set project, I’ve developed research tools that will help me at university and throughout my placement, I’ve developed my communication skills through talking to children, parents and professionals. The placement has also allowed me to develop professional relationships with the teachers which has helped me develop my skills massively!
Zac: The Level 3 Technical Qualification in Education and Childcare provides students with all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to progress into skilled employment or higher-level study in the education and childcare sector. There are three occupational specialisms within the qualification to enable students to focus on areas that they are particularly interested in – Early Years Education and Childcare, Assisting Teaching, and Supporting and Mentoring Students in Further and Higher Education – all of which will consist of both classroom-based and practical learning.
From feedback, we’ve also heard that students are able to really develop their essential, transferable skills such as communication, problem solving, teamwork and resilience, particularly through their placements. This helps to set them up for whatever their next steps are in life.
Q: What are the highlights of your T Level experience over the past two years?
Ellie: I have loved my T Level – it's been such a supportive environment, there’s been lots of great content and the industry placement has been an amazing experience I will never forget! A ‘wow’ moment for me during placement was when an autistic child who is mute said a few words to me during a lesson. It was such a rewarding moment which is just the start of a rewarding career. I thoroughly enjoyed the tasks of observing children. I love seeing them progress in their development and how they change from day to day.
Zac: It’s definitely been a highlight hearing directly from T Level students like Ellie about their experiences. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have students come and speak at our internal events, who have blown us away with their enthusiasm, confidence and ambition. Other huge milestones for us have included being selected as the Awarding Organisation (AO) for what is now nine of the T Levels, with the most recent additions being Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy, Media, Broadcast and Production, and Craft and Design. This makes us the largest AO for T Levels in the country, and I’ve personally had the opportunity to discuss our experiences at a number of large events throughout the two years.
ZAC ALDRIDGE, DIRECTOR OF QUALIFICATIONS AND ASSESSMENT, NCFE:
The important thing for us is offering choice and ensuring young people are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to make the right decision for them.
Q: Have T Levels lived up to your expectations?
Ellie: Studying the Education and Childcare T Level has been what I expected and more! It has allowed me to grow not just as a person, but as a future education professional. Overall, I don't think I could have learned so much if I had chosen to study A Levels or an apprenticeship.
Zac: I’m so glad to hear from Ellie that the qualification has set her up for her future. T Levels are an intrinsic part of the government’s ambitions to level up and develop a world-leading skills economy. I’m delighted to see further and technical education being afforded such a positive spotlight as part of this positive new path. For me, T Levels have exceeded our expectations.
Q: What are the next steps for you on your journey?
Ellie: I’ve now confirmed my place at Brighton University to study Primary Education with QTS, which I’m very excited about. I achieved 4 other offers, including one which was an integrated master’s course and 2 unconditional offers. My dream job is to become a primary school teacher around the Year 2 age, although the role of a SENDCO is something I’ve thought about too. It’s such an interesting and rewarding role! SEN is something I've really become passionate about during my time in placement.
Zac: As I mentioned earlier, NCFE has just been awarded three new T Levels which will be available for first delivery from September 2023, so we’re focusing a lot of our efforts on the development of these fantastic new qualifications. We’re also working closely with our current providers to support them in their delivery of T Levels, ensuring all students have an experience like Ellie’s. Finally, there’s still a lot of work to be done in increasing awareness of T Levels so that they are truly seen by all as a quality option for post-16 school leavers. In particular, we’ll be looking to increase employer appetite for T Levels, particularly around industry placement.
Q: And finally, what would be your advice to someone considering studying a T Level?
Ellie: I’d definitely recommend a T Level to anyone who’s interested in studying one – in fact, I already have! There are so many career paths you can enter into through it and it really gets you prepared for future jobs. The industry placement in particular provides you with experiences you will never forget!
Zac: Take a look at the T Levels available and the different occupational specialisms within them. Talk to your provider, read up on the prospects and find out if it’s the right fit for you. The important thing for us is offering choice and ensuring young people are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to make the right decision for them.
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