T-levels are being introduced in an attempt to address two major problems:  the lack of parity between academic and vocational education and currently low levels of awareness of attractive alternatives to university education at undergraduate level.

During the past 25 years in vocational education, contact hours have reduced from around 24 per week to 15 per week while the learning demand remains largely the same.  This has left colleges struggling to get through the demands of the syllabus and the inevitable consequence of this is the reduction in time for those activities that can make the difference between a college leaver who is work ready and one who is not.   A similar reduction in enrichment activities has happened for academic programmes in schools although not to quite the same extent.

So it is good to see a proposal to increase contact hours by 50% and to introduce 3 months’ compulsory work experience for students on T-level courses.  Colleges will face a number of challenges, one will be to ensure that the extra hours can be covered, and it is hoped that the funding mechanism is sympathetic to this.  Another is to be able facilitate the work experience element for all students.  As far as the delivery of T-levels is concerned, this will be a continuation of some of the excellent delivery that already exists with some requirement to help ensure that the level of teaching can match the experience gained on an extended work placement.  I would expect the T-level syllabus to resemble the current syllabus for a BTEC National, a Cambridge Technical or other similar qualification.  I would also expect to see a big drive towards higher vocational education with an emphasis on Higher National Diplomas and similar courses.  With the introduction of Institutes of Technology there is almost a reversion to the vocational education that some of us were able to enjoy, and benefit from, in the 70s and 80s, both in further and higher education.

To facilitate up to 3 months of meaningful work experience for all students who embark on a T-level programme, much effort in terms of training and supporting employers will be needed.  In some areas there may be a need for a ‘halfway house’ to enable students to start to gain the skills they will need to work in their chosen vocational area.   We are already very familiar with the idea of training salons and training kitchens.  futureCoders has been set up exactly for this purpose and is currently operating a pilot programme through which a fully structured work placement programme can be developed.  Catering for students who are budding software developers and who want to explore, and prepare for, a career in the software industry, futureCoders offers up to 14 hours per week of work experience for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 12.  Current requirements for one week of work experience in each year of college study are inadequate in terms of helping students to build employability skills and to gain enough knowledge about an industry to help them to make an informed choice in relation to career progression.  futureCoders was set up specifically to help current students to gain work experience in software development to test out their understanding of the software industry and to gain skills, experience and a network of contacts that will help them in a future career.  Students can participate whether they are currently in vocational college education or in academic sixth form education.

Loosely based on the Skolepraktik (practice centres) model in Colleges of Technology in Denmark, futureCoders is an operational business developing apps and web-based solutions, primarily for charity, non-profit and social start-up clients, at affordable prices.  Students work alongside professionals, in development teams, and are involved in the whole process through planning meetings, retrospectives, individual development responsibilities and research activities.  Through the current pilot, futureCoders is refining a structured work placement programme that will bring the benefit of skills building, many hours of coding practice, opportunity to contribute to real projects and build personal open source portfolios, experience of working in a development team, meeting with clients and participating in the appraisal process.  In Denmark, futureCoders’ director, Karen Scott, met with tutors at Frederiksberg Tech,  Mercantec, Aarhus Tech and Syddansk Erhvervsskole where practice centres are used to provide a simulated work experience for apprentices who have started a programme but who have yet to secure a work placement.  Some employers were reported to be keen to take students who had spent time in the practice school, in preference to those who hadn’t, simply because they had already developed some skills and attitudes important to the industry.  This is particularly important to the software industry where the skill demand is high and it can take a long while for an apprentice to become productive.  Practice schools are situated on the college campus.  Karen had run a number of projects with students in college, bringing in external clients and external professionals to work with students. This had been largely successful but often lacked realism and sometimes, through lack of access to enough professional help, did not result in a finished product.

Key to the success of T-levels will be the progression routes offered after a student is ready to move on to higher education.  futureCoders aims to highlight and help students to prepare for suitable progression routes.  These may be higher education either at a university or at, maybe, an Institute of Technology or may be on a higher or degree apprenticeship scheme.  The availability of these and their perceived status will help to determine the take up and status of T-levels.  futureCoders is already raising awareness of these progression routes through talks with schools and colleges and through wider publicity.  T-levels are planned for introduction in September 2019.  In the meantime, placements at futureCoders are available to boost the number of hours of useful learning for a student and to provide that element of extended work experience now.   By 2019 the model will be well established and futureCoders will be fully ready to be part of the solution in terms of meaningful work experience placements for T-level students.

Karen Scott lectured at Mid Kent College for over 20 years, is an examiner for A level Applied ICT and recently managed digital apprenticeships on the Step Forward programme for The Challenge.  Karen was a Churchill Fellow of 2014 and travelled to Scotland, Denmark and Japan to learn about how technical, vocational students are prepared for working in the digital industries.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Reading Ojo App | Students Factory

A unique gaming App developed to inspire the reading habit...

Laveena Nair had a status update on Twitter yesterday

Digifest 2021 expo orientation

Get a first look at the Digifest 2021 expo area, as well as useful information on how to move around and explore the interactive elements.

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page