Awarding body CACHE commissioned a survey of 1,000 11 to- 16-year-olds and 1,000 parents with children to determine their knowledge of views of the Government's planned reforms for post-16 education, specifically around the introduction of T-Levels.
They found that 53 per cent of young people and 56 per cent of parents were unaware of the reforms.
Of those young people who were aware of the Government’s plans for T-levels, only 21 per cent understood what they were.
Expected to roll out from 2020, T-Levels are a classroom-based programme of study which take two years to complete and are an alternative to apprenticeships. Childcare and education T-Levels are among the first to launch. A consultation on the T-Levels programme closed last month.
A third of parents said they don’t think technical education is promoted at their child’s school, something which CACHE says needs to be addressed if the reforms are to succeed.
While the aim of the T-levels, which will offer an alternative to A-Levels, is to create parity of esteem between academic and technical education and to create a technical education system that ‘rivals the best in the world’, the survey found that parents were less likely to advise their children to do T-Levels over A-Levels.
This is despite the fact that more than three-quarters of parents (78 per cent) believe that technical qualifications are ‘just as valuable’ as A-Levels and four in five parents (82 per cent) think that technical qualifications can ‘lead to good future careers’.
The survey also revealed a lack of knowledge and understanding of the existing technical education system, with 68 per cent of 11 to- 16-year-olds and 63 per cent of parents unable to name an existing technical qualification.
Julie Hyde, director of CACHE, said, ‘Technical education is vital to ensuring that we have the skilled workforce this country needs for the future and we therefore welcome the Government’s focus on creating a world-class system. These figures suggest that parents do already recognise the value of technical education in theory – which is extremely encouraging – but worryingly, when it comes to supporting their children to choose a post-16 route in practice, many clearly still favour the academic route, perceiving technical education as inferior.
‘The Government has recognised this challenge, but these survey findings really bring it home – more clearly needs to be done to actively change perceptions, if the reforms are to succeed in their aim of creating parity of esteem between academic and technical qualifications.’
She added, ‘As the Government finalises the detail of the new technical qualifications and the system that will underpin them, they must ensure that young people are not limited by the choices they make at 16 in their later lives, as their interests and career goals may evolve.
‘The new system must give young people the flexibility to pursue a wide range of career options or progress into higher education – no matter which route they take at 16, academic or technical.’
The chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AOC) David Hughes said he was not surprised by the survey findings given that T-Levels are in the early stages of development.
‘The survey provides evidence of the enormous challenge faced by all Governments when they introduce new qualifications.
‘The awareness, understanding and prestige of those qualifications does not magically appear overnight - it has to be worked on. T-Levels are an ambitious attempt to change the culture and respect towards technical education; it will take a sustained, long term effort by Government, employers, schools, colleges and universities to make it a success.’
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said, 'It’s encouraging the more than three quarters of parents already see technical qualifications as on a par with A Levels.
'Work continues on their development as we carry on our work with Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships. This also includes promoting T Levels to young people. All young people deserve a choice about their future, and a world-class technical education is one of those choices. T Levels will give them the skills and opportunities they rightly deserve.'