Williamson: My vision for T levels to be international

Education secretary Gavin Williamson says biggest challenge for T levels is around 'sheer capacity within businesses'

Kate Parker

Vocational and technical qualifications: T levels could be offered internationally, says education secretary Gavin Williamson

The government is hopeful T levels will be offered internationally in the future, education secretary Gavin Williamson said today.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the new All-party Parliamentary Group for T levels, Mr Williamson said T levels were at the heart of what prime minister Boris Johnson wanted to develop – and that he was hopeful the new qualifications would be offered "beyond England".

He said: “T levels are very much at the heart of what the prime minister wants to see developed. And that's why we're going to continue to put such an emphasis on the rollout of T levels, making sure that the focus of all educational establishments is about making sure that if they're offering technical and vocational qualifications, T levels absolutely have to be at the heart of it.

"We want to ultimately see this expand further than the borders of England – something that we'll be able to offer in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And, ultimately, my hope and vision is that this is something that we will want to offer internationally as well, making sure that people who understand that while A levels for so long have been seen as a gold standard in terms of academic education, T levels are seen exactly the same in terms of technical vocational education."

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T levels were launched in September 2020, as the "gold standard" alternative technical qualification to A levels. The first routes on offer are in education and childcare, digital and construction. Experts across the sector have raised concerns with the qualifications, particularly the viability of the industry placement, a critical element of the course. 

A survey conducted by the Institute of Directors, shared exclusively with Tes, found that just one in 10 employers were planning to offer a T-level placement in 2021. 

T levels: The challenge of engaging businesses post-Covid

And speaking today, Mr Williamson said the greatest challenge T levels were facing was “sheer capacity within businesses” at the moment.

“The greatest challenge that we're facing, and it is probably the same with large companies, as well as SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises], is just the sheer capacity within businesses at the moment, because obviously so much has gone on and at such speed."

But he said there was a "real hunger" in businesses for T levels. 

"There's a real sense, and hunger and interest in this, but the key element that's so important for employers is having had the ability to influence the design of the T levels, so there's the young people coming out of the end are in the right sort of shape, with the right type of skills," Mr Williamson said.

"Covid is without a doubt a challenge, but I do believe, as we come out of this, the capacity of so many more businesses to really engage on this on a much closer level is going to be increased substantially." 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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