New T levels research from NFER - Providers say ‘good support so far but still room for improvement’

Thursday 20 June 2019

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has today issued a snapshot report exploring how provider organisations are preparing to deliver the first three T Level qualifications in Digital, Construction and Education and Childcare across England from September 2020.

The report, How are providers preparing for delivery?’ is based on interviews with 25 of the first 50 providers and ten senior sector representatives. It shows that they have been kept well informed about T Levels and welcome the wider support they have received from government organisations such as the Department for Education (DfE), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).

They are confident they have the staff expertise and capacity to deliver the first three T levels and that they will recruit their target initial student numbers but they have expressed concerns on a number of issues around delivery now and in the future. In particular their immediate concerns focused on:

  • The tight timescale between the qualification specifications being available (Feb/Mar 2020) and first teaching (Sept 2020) not allowing much lead time for detailed curriculum and programme planning and staff training.
  • Practical concerns relating to the 45 day minimum industry placements: lack of large employers in rural areas; competition for placements with other work-based learning courses; challenges for students in travelling to and from placements.
  • The size of the T level programmes may make it difficult for some post-16 students to access, particularly those with part-time jobs and/or caring responsibilities.

The second wave of T Level providers was announced on Tuesday 18 June by the Department for Education and as the provision continues to grow, the NFER report recommends further thought and consideration be given to:

  • The form and content to the transition year for level 2 students and drawing on the many examples of good practice in the sector in developing this (following the award of the contract for developing this to the Association of Colleges last month).
  • Monitoring how challenges in the sector such as funding, low staff morale and lack of focus on professional development will impact on the delivery of T level programmes
  • Providing opportunities to network and share learning and effective practice on delivery and directly linking first wave providers with subsequent ones
  • Clarity on progression routes and greater transparency to understand where T Levels fit within existing provision and how they related to Applied General Qualifications and the requirements for progression to higher apprenticeships

Suzanne Straw, Education to Employment Lead at NFER, commented: “Providers and sector representatives, whilst broadly supportive, said they would welcome a clearer strategic picture of the purpose of T Level qualifications, and in particular where they fit within the 16-19 vocational and technical education landscape. The picture has been evolving since the intention to launch the qualifications was announced, which is to be expected, however with just over a year to go until the first students start on T level programmes it is crucial for this now to stabilise and for the outstanding questions to be answered.”

NFER will be taking regular snapshots over the coming months and years to track progress. The next phase will be a series of roundtable discussions in the autumn to review progress once more and engage stakeholders in some of the outstanding questions and future opportunities around T Levels.

You can download the pdf report here.

For further information please contact Sundip Gill on 01753 637218 s.gill@nfer.ac.uk or Jane Parrack on 01753 637245 j.parrack@nfer.ac.uk