Much of the discussion about education over the past couple of years has focused on the impact of COVID-19. This has dwarfed some changes to the education system, including the introduction of T Levels.
T Levels are a new form of vocational qualification. They are designed to be taken at 16, just after GCSEs and like A Levels, last two years and you accrue UCAS points. The big difference is that they feature an industry placement and focus on a particular line of work, such as media production or construction.
I’ve written about T Levels in the past, including this Q&A with Gillian Keegan MP, former Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills. Such articles only provide one side of the story. What about the pioneering students who are studying these new qualifications?
I was delighted to be put in touch Sam Greaves. Sam is studying childcare and education at Blackpool and Fylde College and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about T Levels and his experience of studying them. I am sure you will agree his enthusiasm for the subject comes through loud and clear. If it inspires you to find out more about T Levels for yourself or your children, following the link at the end to the T Levels website where you will get more information.
Why did T Levels appeal to you?
It had the right balance between classroom studying and work placement.
I knew what I wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. So I was keen to get into the classroom and get on straight into teaching. At school I was always happiest down the front delivering presentations or such like so I wanted to be doing that in front of a class as soon as possible rather than sitting behind a desk.
What T Level are you studying?
The T Level in childcare and education at Blackpool and the Fylde College.
Was it difficult for you to decide what to study?
When I was at primary school and I had a male teacher when I was about eight and he influenced my learning so much I wanted to be a primary school teacher and be like him from then on. Now I’m doing placements along that teacher at my old primary school!
Of course, I got some comments growing up as a boy who wanted to be a primary school teacher because it is still uncommon., but I developed a thick skin to that. I knew what I wanted to do and I was determined to make it happen so those sorts of comments never got to me.
Is it a mix of lessons and industry experience?
It’s around 80% work placement to 20% learning in the classroom – as in being taught in a classroom, my course also involves being in a classroom whether I’m teaching or being taught!
I’ve been lucky to do my placements at my old primary school. You can go to a range of schools but the teachers at my school thought I was great, I was giving them so much more than they thought they were going to get out of the placement that they really wanted me there and wanted me back.
What options will be open to you when you have completed your T Levels?
T Levels give you lots of options. I have always known what I wanted to do with mine. You could do the course I’m on for example if you know you want to do something in childcare and education and just see where it takes you.
You can go straight into assistant teaching and then from there specialise in the pastoral side or in Special Educational Needs or even get into working with young offenders.
Or you can go to university and get your teaching qualifications.
What would you hope to do after you have finished studying T Levels?
I’ll finish next summer and then I’m planning to go to university to get my Qualified Teacher Status. I’ve so much experience in the classroom now that I hope that’ll really help at the next stage, going into a classroom won’t be something that’ll phase me like it might others who have come to the uni course via A Levels for example. Hopefully I’ll be in a classroom teaching by the age of 21.
T Levels are very new. How did friends and family react when you said you were going to study for this new qualification?
They had to ask what it was because it’s so new but because my family and friends knew that I was clear what I wanted to do then they could see it was the best path for me. It takes me to the exact spot I need to be in for the next stage.
What would be your message to parents who are advising their child about taking T Levels?
If your child knows what they want to do then it will give them child 100% of what they need and put them so much further along the career and learning than if they took A Levels. It gives them experience, it includes classroom learning and it gives them options too.
Following on from that, what do you think potential T Level students need to know about the qualification?
It’s not a walkover! You get so much from it, so much experience, you’ll take on lots of knowledge – and you’re going to have to store that somewhere.
Where can people find more information about T Levels?
I learned about them from an open day at my high school when someone from the college came in to talk about them and I thought that was for me. So look out for that in schools.
The official website is tlevels.gov.uk or if you google APPG on T Levels they also have a website and a Twitter account.