T-Level placements ‘too short’

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There is growing concern among training providers and awarding bodies about the number of work placement days students on the Education and Childcare T-Level will undertake, as it has emerged that placements are being piloted at just 40 days.

  • Too few work placement days, trainers warn
  • Awarding bodies also raise concerns about outcome

There is growing concern among training providers and awarding bodies about the number of work placement days students on the Education and Childcare T-Level will undertake, as it has emerged that placements are being piloted at just 40 days.

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed to Nursery World that initial pilots of the Education and Childcare T-Level work placements have been under way this academic year (2017/18). Placements have been for a minimum of 40 days, equivalent to fewer than 270 hours. However, providers could exceed this if they wanted to.

The decision to pilot 40-day placements is a surprise given that Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance states that placements should be an average length of 50 working days, within a range of 45 to 60, for a minimum of 315 hours. The Institute for Education’s consultation on the content of the Education and Childcare T-Level, which closed at the end of last month, proposed a minimum of 45 days.

Placement days

Giving evidence to the Education Select Committee last week, the apprenticeship and skills minister Anne Milton also referred to T-Level work placements as lasting for 45 days.

At the time of the consultation, awarding bodies and training providers raised concern that the proposed number of work placement days for students doing the qualification would be too few in order to obtain a licence to practise given that those working towards the Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification do 730-750 hours of placements.

The DfE confirmed last month that the early years T-Level, being introduced in 2020, will provide students with a licence to practise upon its completion.

Now that the length of work placements involved has come to light, concern among the sector has grown.

Awarding bodies have said that to be credited, work placements should not go below 720 hours.

Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, told Nursery World that he would be very concerned if the T-Level model had placements shorter than this.

Janet King, senior subject specialist at CACHE, said, ‘There must be very clear and robust guidance around “industry placement” in order to satisfy any additional requirements set by the T-Level panel.

‘Learners studying for this occupational specialism must be given every opportunity to gain a licence to practise and full Early Years Educator status on completion of their T-Level programme, and this should not be compromised during a pilot period.

‘Successful learners studying on the pilot must leave the programme able to progress to higher education as well as enter the early years workforce counting in the staff:child ratios (other statutory requirements satisfied), with equitable employability chances.’

She added, ‘The pilot will undoubtedly show an appreciation of any problems and concerns that can support a robust infrastructure for the T-Level, but not at the cost of learner outcomes and sector recruitment limitations.’

Their concerns follow comments from the apprenticeships and skills minister in which she questioned the wisdom of doing a T-Level in its first year (see box).

T-Level pilot and first roll-out

The DfE contracted charity The Challenge to pilot delivery of T-Level work placements in 2017/18; this includes work placements for the Education and Childcare pathway.

The Challenge confirmed to Nursery Worldthat 38 childcare students at South Thames College and 14 students at Manchester College took part in the initial pilot.

More workplace pilots are due to take place in the 2018/19 academic year. Funded through the Commission and Delivery Fund, they are due to start from this September.

From 2020, 52 colleges and post-16 providers will offer the first three T-Levels in Digital, Education and Childcare, and Construction.

Anne Milton at the Education Select Committee

anne-milton-red-jacket-02-300dpiThe apprenticeship and skills minister Anne Milton, who is in charge of introducing T-Levels, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee last week.

During the session, she was questioned by committee member Lucy Powell MP, about why parents would choose for their children to do the education and childcare T-Level over the current Level 3 qualification.

Ms Powell said, ‘If I am a parent of a 16-year-old going to an open evening next autumn, why am I going to choose one (a qualification) that hasn’t got a licence to practise yet, employers haven’t bought into it yet and the content of the qualification hasn’t been specified? There is a really well, really understood pathway already. Why would I choose a T-Level for my child?’

In response, the minister confirmed that employers will be on board by next autumn; however, she acknowledged that it will be ‘tough’ persuading parents to get their children to take up the qualification.

She said, ‘We know not many students will do it (T-Levels) in the first instance. I’m a parent of four children. If someone said to me, “your children could do this new qualification”, I would say leave it a year. Instinctively that’s what parents will do.’

Following questioning from Labour MP James Frith, Ms Milton went on to admit she had made a mistake by using her own personal experiences to make a point.

For the latest on T-Levels see ‘Bed of roses?’ on page 9 of Training Today.

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