The Department for Education (DfE) describes Tech level qualifications as follows:
Tech levels are rigorous advanced (Level 3) technical qualifications on a par with A levels and recognised by employers. They are for students aged 16 plus who want to specialise in a specific industry or prepare for a particular job. They cover jobs and careers where employers recruit people at this level, or where a level 3 qualification is needed before students can progress to a related higher education course. Tech levels give students an opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and skills to help them get an apprenticeship or job, for example in engineering, IT, accounting, or professional cookery, or progress to a higher level qualification. In some cases, a tech level qualification is a ‘licence to practise’, or can exempt someone holding the qualification from a professional exam. Tech levels are recognised by trade or professional bodies or at least five employers. Alternatively, the qualification may be accepted by a national licensed professional registration scheme.
Individual components are graded using a Pass/Merit/Distinction grading scale. These grades are aggregated into an overall grade for the qualification, also using a Pass/Merit/Distinction grading scale.
As noted in 'Education context', to be classified as a Tech level qualification, the qualification in question must meet certain criteria. This includes:
- a minimum of 30% external assessment
- a minimum of 40% mandatory core content
- an element of synoptic assessment
- there is a single resit opportunity
The above share the minimum requirements set out by the Department for Education. NOCN meets these requirements by using three assessment components:
- externally set, externally marked written examination
- externally set, internally marked, externally quality assured synoptic assignment
- work experience workbook
Tech level qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to specialise in a specific industry, occupation, or occupational group. They equip students with specialist knowledge and skills.
There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing Tech level qualifications that meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:
- these qualifications are fundamentally different to their predecessors and Applied General qualifications, and are likely to result in students developing different skills and aptitudes. HEPs should review their understanding of these qualifications to ensure it remains upto date.
- the reformed qualifications include both external and synoptic assessment, as well as changes to resit processes. These changes are likely to result in fewer students passing the qualification. Equally, it is likely that grade distributions will change. In light of this, HEPs may wish to review their entry requirements, offer-making, and decision-making strategies in relation to these qualifications.
- the reformed and interim reformed qualifications will be delivered by schools and colleges at the same time (see ‘Education context’). Therefore, HEPs may wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications.
- the dual running of the qualification may result in applicants declaring the incorrect version on their application. UCAS will be working to support applicants and advisers in this area.
- a larger mandatory core means HEPs that require certain levels of achievement in particular units, or ask for specific units to satisfy subject knowledge requirements, should familiarise themselves with the new content specifications to ensure these requirements are still valid. It should be noted that not all students will be able choose their optional units, and these may be prescribed by the school or college, therefore HEPs should be cautious if requiring achievement in optional modules as part of their entry requirements, offer-making, and decision-making strategies.
Applicants holding reformed Tech level qualifications will have had experience of external and synoptic assessment.
NOCN website: www.nocn.org.uk