A “serious incident” that left T Level health and science students with lower-than-expected results did “slightly tarnish” the T Level brand, the newly reappointed minister for skills has said.
Addressing the blunder, which led to an Ofqual and Department for Education investigation, Andrea Jenkyns said “it was very unfortunate, we were all disappointed”.
“We’ve got an investigation into that at the moment and I’m going to be releasing that this year.
“I think it’s a shame that that happened. It has sort of tarnished slightly some of the PR and the positivity of T Levels,” Jenkyns said.
The minister followed up her comments with a staunch defence of T Levels and gave no indication of a change of policy on level 3 qualifications under prime minister Liz Truss’ administration.
Back in May, the DfE published a draft list of 160 qualifications, including 38 BTECs, that it proposes to withdraw funding from in 2024 as they “overlap” with T Levels. The decision to defund BTECs in order to promote T Levels has been challenged by sector bodies, most notably by the Protect Student Choice campaign, led by the Sixth Form Colleges Association.
Awarding organisations had until July 8 to appeal the DfE’s proposals. A final list of qualifications set to lose their funding is expected to be released imminently.
Jenkyns said that despite having done a BTEC national in business and finance, she would herself now choose a T Level.
“If I was choosing now I would do T Levels. It’s actually the industry placement. I know that there have been some issues with the placement and trying to get employers on board. But I think this is the right direction to be honest.”
The minister suggests that the industry placement element of T Levels will provide young people from working class families with the business and social networks that middle class families take for granted.
Jenkyns was speaking on a panel organised by the Centre for Social Justice called ‘bridging the gap: high quality education for all’ alongside representatives from tutoring companies, the Fair Education Alliance and Robert Halfon, the chair of the education committee.
This was the first education fringe event the new minister spoke at at the conference, and one of the first public events she has spoken at.
“I’m very much a meritocrat; working-class background, first in my family to go to university in my late 30s and I was a BTEC girl,” she said by way of introduction.
As well as rolling out T Levels and “driving up standards in apprenticeships”, Jenkyns said she wants to see “major improvements in literacy and numeracy across all ages”.
On higher education, Jenkyns said she disagrees with some university vice-chancellors’ calls for raising tuition fees.
“Lots of universities have said to me that they want us to put up the amount that you can charge students. What I’m concerned about is the student. They’re going to be the ones who at the moment are saddled with 30 grand in debt. And so I don’t personally want to see that increased, especially when young people are starting out in life. I think we actually need to look at new ways of working it.”