With the introduction of T levels, the government has signalled one of the biggest shake-ups in the English qualifications system for years. Dr Claudia Sumner looks at the evidence of how schools and colleges can work with employers to provide students with effective practical experience – a key part of the new qualifications

The first tranche of new technical qualifications, known at T levels, will be available to students from 2020. Though T levels are new, there is existing evidence on the operation of work experience placements that can be used to inform the development of one of their key features: meaningful work placements.

In this article we consider what we can learn from that evidence about the contribution of employers in designing and delivering meaningful placements that will contribute to the success of the new qualifications.

In 2016, Lord Sainsbury published a review of technical education in the UK (Post-16 Skills Plan, July 2016). He identified “serious problems” with a system that it is “over complex”, and unfit for the 21st century. He said that vocational qualifications had “become divorced from the occupations they should be preparing individuals for”.

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