Survey of young people and parents shows that there is more to do to make the Government’s technical education reforms a success

More than half of young people (53%) and parents (56%) are unaware of the Government’s plans to introduce new robust technical qualifications, as a credible alternative to A-Levels, and don’t know what the proposed qualifications are, according to research published today.

The findings reveal a significant lack of awareness about the Government’s planned reforms for post-16 education, specifically around the introduction of new technical qualifications, known as T-Levels, from as soon as 2020.

Of those young people aged 11-16, who were aware of the Government’s plans for T-Levels, only 21% understood what they were. Similarly, 14% of parents with children in the same age range polled, stated they didn’t know what T-Levels were.

The survey has been commissioned by CACHE, the UK’s leading sector specialist for high-quality vocational qualifications for the health, care and education sectors and carried out by research company Censuswide. 

With the reforms, the Government is seeking to create parity of esteem between academic and technical education and to create a technical education system that “rivals the best in the world”. However, worryingly whilst the findings show that parents do see the value of technical education, twice as many parents would advise their children to study for A-Levels (53%) rather than technical qualifications (26%).

This is despite the fact that more than three quarters of parents (78%) believe that technical qualifications are “just as valuable” as A-Levels and four in five parents (82%) think that technical qualifications can “lead into good future careers”.

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Commenting on these findings, 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.”

More than half (54%) of 11-16-year olds stated that they did not know what career path they wish to follow, yet under the Government’s reformed post-16 education system, these young people would have to decide whether to follow a technical or academic route at the end of secondary school.

Noting the implications of these findings, Ms Hyde, said:

“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 survey also revealed a clear lack of knowledge and understanding of the existing technical education system. 68% of young people and 63% of parents with children could not name an existing technical qualification. A third of parents with children also stated that they felt that technical education was not promoted as a post-16 option at their child’s school – something which will need to be addressed, if the reforms are to succeed.

Commenting on the results, David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AOC) said:

“These results are not at all surprising, given that T Levels are in the very 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.”

Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

“This survey appears to confirm that questions over value for money from a traditional degree with its accompanying student debt are increasingly prompting young people and parents to weigh post-16 options very carefully.

“If introduced in the right way, T levels will enrich the choices available for those who may prefer a different route to a technical qualification that apprenticeships and degrees can already provide.”

About CACHE: CACHE (the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) is the UK’s leading sector specialist in health, care and education and is now a trademark owned by national awarding organisation NCFE. CACHE has developed qualifications of excellence for over 70 years to more than 1,000 UK-based and overseas delivery partners.

Over the years, CACHE has continually invested in high-quality qualifications which are written and developed by experts, and have helped millions of learners across the world raise professional standards. Its continued dedication to those who care for children, young people and adults means that its qualifications will continue to meet the needs of a modern workforce.

About Survey: The survey was commissioned by CACHE and undertaken by research company Censuswide. 1000 young people aged 11 - 16 and 1000 parents with children were polled in the survey. Field work was conducted between Monday 5th February and Tuesday 6th February 2018. Results available on request.

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