Fewer than one in five people have heard of T-levels

Once hailed as the government’s flagship qualification, two years on from their launch only 18% of people are aware of T-levels, according to a new survey

T-levels remain all but unknown by the general public, according to a new poll.

Only 18% are aware of the post-16 qualification, claims the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) survey. Awareness levels of the courses are scarcely higher in the age group closest to being able to enrol, with 29% of 18-24-year-olds saying they’d heard of them.

Just over a third (39%) in the group with the highest proportion of recognition – parents of 16 to 18-year-olds – said they had heard of the qualification.

Technical – or T-levels – were launched in 2020 with the aim of giving 16–19-year-olds in England a mixture of classroom learning and work experience in an industry placement.

While the number of available T-levels continues to rise – an engineering and manufacturing course will be available to students from September – the new poll is another signal that the topography of the post-16 educational landscape is rather different to the one only recently envisaged by the government.

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It was less than a year ago that the then education secretary, Gavin Williamson, was holding the line that T-levels would stand alongside A-levels as the main progression options after GCSEs. Btecs were to be effectively culled, with Williamson insisting that “there can be no room in our education system for second rate qualifications”.

Now, the T-level still stands largely unrecognised, while the Department for Education announced last month that only a relative handful of Btecs will be dropped.

“The poll shows there is still much work to be done to raise awareness of T-levels,” said Professor Helen James, chair of IMechE’s Education and Skills Strategy Board.

“We need to raise understanding among young people and their parents, as well as among companies who could potentially offer placements for T-levels.”

Lack of knowledge regarding qualifications was not the only area in which young people were deemed to lack awareness of potential paths ahead. Almost two-thirds (64%) of the 2,000 people polled by ICM Unlimited said that 16–19-year-olds do not know enough about the skills they will need for their career.

“We know that many teachers do not feel well equipped to give careers advice, especially for STEM subjects,” said Lydia Amarquaye, IMechE education policy adviser.

“The Government needs to invest in careers hubs and teachers’ CPD to ensure school leavers are being given the right information for them to make the right choices.”

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