Parity of esteem drive loses steam

If some universities say they won’t accept T levels in applications, then the qualification is clearly not “on a par” with A levels, despite the government’s intentions

Julia Belgutay

News article image

So, here we are again, discovering that measures to establish parity of esteem between vocational and academic options already seem consigned to failure.

The new T levels would put technical education “on a par” with other routes to employment, skills minister Anne Milton said only last October. But two years before they are due to be introduced, it turns out that some of the country’s most prestigious universities have already decided that the new qualification, announced by the government as the vocational equivalent of A levels, would not be considered in the same way in applications for their courses.

The universities’ reluctance to consider the new routes comes despite barely anything being known yet about the new qualifications or their content. But it is easy to see why some institutions, including Imperial College in London, are confident in their view that T levels will not count, while others are reluctant to commit. They don’t need them. They are already having to turn away applicants, many of whom have the appropriate number of A levels and an impressive list of extracurricular achievements to boot.

More vocational

And then there is the other crucial point: T levels will, by their very nature, be much more vocational. So why should fundamentally academic institutions consider them? Equally, why should young people hoping to go to these universities undertake qualifications that are not as academic as A levels?

The point here is not whether students who take T levels will apply to university. The point is that if we say the qualifications are “on a par” with something else, then that is what they need to be. We cannot tell young people to take qualifications on the basis that they offer parity when we already know it isn’t true.

Parity of esteem won’t be achieved by giving qualifications similar names to each other. It will come when we stop seeing university as the be-all and end-all measure of success, and when we instead judge routes by the tangible successes of those who take them.

@JBelgutay

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

Latest stories

Leadership: how to turn a failing school around

How to turn a failing school around

Rebuilding a school's shattered reputation isn't easy - but focus on belonging, brilliant staff and behaviour and you'll get there, writes Chris Edwards
Chris Edwards 22 Oct 2021
Staff surveys can be key to help uncover what CPD will really have an impact

How to use surveys to focus staff development plans

Staff surveys can be great for uncovering what teachers really want - but you need to ensure they ask the right questions and the insights are properly understood. Here's how you can do just that
Chris Lindop 22 Oct 2021