ASCL comment on NFER report on T levels

10/12/2019
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders responds to the new report on T levels from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
 
Responding to the new report on T levels from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

This report identifies a number of serious concerns about the introduction of T levels and should be ringing alarm bells in Whitehall with the first students due to embark on these courses in just nine months’ time.

These are massive qualifications in terms of the number of learning hours and work placements which are envisaged – much larger than other qualifications. This makes them difficult to timetable and potentially deters students who have to juggle study with part-time jobs to make ends meet, or students who have caring responsibilities. It does not help that the full specifications will not be available until March which leaves an incredibly tight schedule for developing them for teaching in September.

Requiring an industry placement of 45 days is extremely ambitious and will be hard to achieve at scale without a great deal more flexibility in what counts towards a placement.

We also badly need more clarity about the extent to which these qualifications will be accepted by high tariff universities.

As soon as the General Election is over, these concerns must be a key priority in the Education Secretary’s in-tray. 

So too should be the lamentable state of 16-19 education funding in general.

The investment in T levels is welcome but this represents a tiny fraction of the students in this phase of education. Plans to raise the post-16 funding rate next year are not remotely sufficient to make up for years of real-terms cuts. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has highlighted, the extra money will still leave spending per student over 7% below its level in 2010–11 in colleges and over 20% below in sixth forms.

We would also emphasise the importance of retaining BTECs and other applied general qualifications which serve many students extremely well and should not be sacrificed in the government’s forthcoming review in a misguided attempt to clear the path for T levels.”