10 Jun 2018, Katy Morton, Hannah Crown
Awarding bodies and sector organisations have raised concerns that the early years T-Level won’t equip students with a licence to practice.
While more details on the Education and Childcare T-level, scheduled to be rolled out from 2020, were released in a public consultation that was open for just two weeks and closed yesterday (10 June), it is still unclear whether qualified students will be able to count in ratios at Level 3.
One issue is the number of work placement hours T-Level students must complete. The consultation document proposes a minimum of 45 days on an industry placement, but awarding bodies and sector organisations claim this would fall short of the Early Years Educator (EYE) criteria. However, the consultation says it is likely that the number of work placement hours will be increased for the Education and Childcare T-Level.
Another concern is how the T-Level will be assessed. The consultation document states the ‘core component’ of a T-Level (see 'T-Level content' below) will be assessed through an external examination and a ‘substantial’ employer-set project, while specialist routes will be assessed ‘synoptically through rigorous practical assignments’.
The Education and Childcare T-Level will have three specialisms: early years education and childcare; assisting teaching; and supporting, mentoring students in further and higher education.
The T-Level panels, made up of sector experts and responsible for developing the outline content of the Education and Childcare T-Level, will not be involved in setting assessments.
It is understood that over time the Education and Childcare T-Level with the early years specialism will replace the Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification, but only if licence to practice elements are met.
Julie Hyde, director of CACHE, said, ‘The Government’s response to the consultation on the implementation of T-Levels has left a lot of questions unanswered and indeed raised new ones, particularly around the competencies and knowledge that learners will have at the end of a T-Level in education and childcare.
‘Our main concern is that young people completing a T-Level may not be in a position to work in an early years setting immediately after completing their qualification and would not count towards ratios. This could have a damaging impact on the sector, with nurseries already struggling to recruit staff and with a severe shortage of nursery places.
‘Another unresolved issue is how the work placements will ensure that learners develop the crucial workplace skills they need. While some sectors are concerned it will be difficult for employers to offer a 45-day placement, our concern is this will not be sufficient for learners on the childcare route to gain the experience and skills they need to prepare them to be employed in the role at the level of the qualification they have taken.’
Both Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, and Stella Ziolkowski, director of quality and workforce development at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), share her concerns.
Mr Freeston said, ‘In terms of the proposed content of the Education and Childcare T-Levels, we are concerned that the consultation focuses solely on the content of the T-Level itself, rather than seeking views on how the new qualification fits within the overall framework of early years qualification and career pathways.
‘For example, the regulatory requirements of the EYFS are very clear that to count in ratio, only full and relevant qualifications at Level 3 can be accepted, and yet it remains uncertain if or how this will apply to those who complete T-Levels – and if it doesn’t, why a learner would opt for a T-Level qualification over a full and relevant standalone EYE qualification.’
Ms Ziolkowski added, ‘NDNA is concerned about how the T-Level will sit with the EYE qualification. We are worried about whether T-Level students will be recognised as equivalent to EYE students.’
On the work placement element, she said, ‘If the placement is limited, that could be an issue. Working in childcare is a very practical job so learners need lots of on-the-job training. Without this it would be like passing your theory test and jumping straight into a car without gaining the practical experience. If T-Level students don’t receive enough hours on work placement, the fear is that when it comes to getting a job, employers will choose apprentices over T-Level students.’
Respondents to the Government’s consultation have also flagged up that just one awarding organisation will be issued a licence to deliver the T-Level, which they say could ‘reduce market competition, choice and innovation’.
The tender process began last week. Awarding organisations will be able to bid for exclusive licences for technical qualifications for the first three T-Levels, which include Education and Childcare, from this autumn. Final contracts are expected to be issued in 2019, after which T-Level qualifications will be developed by the winning awarding bodies.
The NDNA and Pre-School Learning Alliance also believe that the ‘core’ content of the T-Level is too broad.
Mr Freeston said, ‘The relationship of T-Levels to full and relevant EYE qualifications is further complicated by the fact that the age range in the proposed new qualification is 0-19, while EYE qualifications are required to focus only on the 0-5 age range. In trying to develop a core-based qualification that covers a range of education roles including teaching assistants and learning supporters in further and higher education, the Department for Education is at risk of developing a structure that is unworkable. They must ensure that the core content can be flexed to meet the particular needs of each career pathway.’
A spokesperson for York College, one of the colleges chosen to deliver the T-Levels, said, ‘York College is very excited to have been chosen to pilot the T-Level in Education and Childcare from 2020. We are confident that the introduction of T-Levels will provide the opportunity the country needs to boost and strengthen technical and professional education for young people.’
According to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) consultation document on the proposed content of the Education and Childcare T-Level, the total study time for a T-Level will vary between 900 and 1,400 hours. Students will be expected to achieve Level 2 (GCSE) in maths and English. However, this could be higher if determined by T-Levels panels. Functional skills will be accepted as alternatives.
Each T-Level will provide students with ‘core’ knowledge and give them a choice of routes (‘occupational specialisms’). These specialisms correspond to the apprenticeship standards listed on the occupational map, which was updated by the IFA at the end of last month (see News round-up).
The ‘core’ content of the Education and Childcare T-Level will provide students with an overview of childcare and education from birth to age 19, and cover the following areas:
Students will choose from three ‘occupational specialisms’– early years education and childcare; assisting teaching; or supporting, mentoring students in further and higher education.
Under each specialism, there are several performance outcomes students must meet. For the early years education and childcare specialism, there are five.
A spokesperson for the Institute for Apprenticeships, said, 'T Level panels have been consulting with a range of stakeholders as they have been developing the outline content. The content is based on apprenticeship standards that have already been subject to consultation and approval.
'The deadline for consultation has been extended to 10 June, which aligns with the Institute’s current approval timeline.'