TLPD TRIP: Harlow College

Student Recruitment

A case study from the Teacher Regional Improvement Project (TRIP) led by Harlow College in collaboration with Chelmsford College, Northampton College, South Essex College, and United Seevic Palmers College.

The TRIP was part of the first phase of the T Level Professional Development (TLPD) offer, which enabled T Level providers to participate in sector-led, collaborative action research projects.

Project aims

  • Break the traditional view of post-16 education
  • Enable students and parents to make an informed choice when considering T Levels
  • To upskill staff to provide a high level of information, advice and guidance
  • Understand the barriers to choosing T Levels as a progression route
  • Identification of effective strategies to overcome barriers to facilitate recruitment and retention on the T Level offer.

Project overview

The TRIP focused on the recruitment of students onto T Level programmes to better understand the information that needs to be available to student groups and the influencers. The information will be used to inform students of the aspects of the T Level programme of study that need to be communicated in the early stages of student recruitment. This was undertaken across main feeder schools in the local areas of the partners. The target groups focused around KS4 learners (year 9, 10 and 11 for schools with a 3-year GCSE), parents/carers and school CEIAG and teaching staff.

The TRIP partners collaboratively planned the format and content of a toolkit of resources that were used to raise awareness of T Levels and improve understanding. Each partner personalised their activities to reflect local job opportunities and to be able to deliver the information in context to their area. Timescales and method of delivery of the standardised events were planned and designed to disseminate and collate information for and from the three main research groups, students, parents and school staff.

Each stakeholder group completed two surveys, a pre-presentation survey, followed by a post-presentation survey following the dissemination of standardised information. Data collated from the surveys was analysed, from which action plans have been produced which focus on removing barriers to student recruitment.

Project outputs

  1. Surveys
    1. Student Pre and Post Survey
    2. Parent Pre and Post Surevy
  2. Presentations/Videos
    1. Student
    2. Parent
    3. Teacher
  3. Report detailing key information regarding barriers to student recruitment
  4. Action Plan identifying and removing barriers
  5. Evaluation and reflection on lessons learnt.

Positive outcomes and expected impacts

The project has improved understanding of the T Level qualification across staff in the TRIP partnership. All staff including IAG staff, Human Resources, Marketing, Finance, SEN, Exams and MIS teams have benefitted from the project through various CPD opportunities which have raised awareness of their role and responsibility for the implementation of the T Level. 

The project identified lack of understanding of T Levels as a significant barrier to future recruitment. As a result of this, TRIP partners are intending to plan additional instances of engagement with schools, parents and learners to promote understanding of T Levels and improve awareness of post-16 progression opportunities 

Identification of additional barriers to recruitment will enable TRIP partners to plan effective strategies to overcome barriers to facilitate recruitment and retention on the T Level offer through a personalised Action Plan identifying clear steps to overcome identified barriers. 

The project has also enabled collaborative partner relationships, some of which are due to deliver T Level qualifications in the coming academic year and so will be able to share real time experience.”
– USP College

Teaching staff

Managers and staff, from both delivery and non-delivery areasare more aware of the nature of T Levels and are prepared for the introduction of T Levels to prospective learners, as well as being confident and able to promote the full complement of information regarding the T Level offer to students and parents.  

Effective collaborative relationships have been developed with participating colleges which have provided multiple learning/CPD opportunities. 

Staff skills and knowledge gaps can be identified through self-assessment tools which provide clear individual actions for teams and staff to work towards. 

 “I will be more confident in explaining how T Levels are delivered to my team”
– JB (CAM for Digital), Chelmsford College

 “Broader understanding of T Levels that I can confidently share with the rest of the staff’”
– SC (CAM for Child Care), Chelmsford College


School Advice and Guidance staff have access to accurate information to enable them to provide learners with accurate and uptodate information required to enable them to make an informed decision about their career ambitions and progression routes. 

Parents/guardians benefit from being given access to impartial, high quality IAG/ information that will support them in assisting their child in choosing and understanding the most appropriate next step for them, which supports their career aspirations in line with local labour market information. 

As I go into schools and speak to students of all ages it is imperative I give updated accurate information. When I speak to clients at Careers Fairs, I need to know the future changes in the courses – these could be for employers, students, parents, other training providers. This is why I need to become fully aware of the T Level pathway.
– Deborah Wallace-Martin, Careers and Progression Officer, Harlow College

The TRIP project has enabled us to target schools to help disseminate T Level information alongside focusing us to conduct more of this”
– South Essex College

Future activity to support T Level implementation and delivery

Following the delivery of the promotional events, partners gathered the data collated from all groups. The data analysis has been reviewed and disseminated to partners to create bespoke action plans, to consider geographic differences and which will include common themes from the overall data analysis. The overall data analysis has highlighted common themes from each audience group which will then be shared more widely to support the national implementation of Levels.   

Future activity to support T Level implementation and delivery

Following the delivery of the promotional events, partners gathered the data collated from all groups. The data analysis has been reviewed and disseminated to partners to create bespoke action plans, to consider geographic differences and which will include common themes from the overall data analysis. The overall data analysis has highlighted common themes from each audience group which will then be shared more widely to support the national implementation of T Levels.

Graph displaying the results from the question 'Rate your understanding of the T Level qualification'

Of the 250 students and parents surveyed, 94% reported that they had little or no understanding of the new T Level qualification. Only 8% of stakeholders felt they had sufficient information to be able to make an informed decision about which progression route would be the most suitable for students’ career aspirations.

Graph displaying the results from asking students about the advice they received about progression routes'

83% of Year 9-11 students stated that they discuss and seek advice and guidance from family regarding their post GCSE progression routes. Family feature as the largest influencer, with school advice and guidance as the second influencer where students discuss their choices. It is vital that influencers and stakeholders are equipped with regular, up to date, accurate and reliable information.

Graph showing results of the question 'Which factors would prevent you from choosing/recommending a T Level?'

Parents and teachers’ main concern with the qualification is that employers will not fully understand the course content and structure, or recognise the value and skills level required to achieve a T Level qualification. All stakeholders need to be made aware of the significant demands and value of the programme compared to other choices as progression routes for post-GCSE. Stakeholders need assurance that employers understand and recognise the qualification and are on-boarded to invest in young people in readiness to replenish an ageing workforce.

Lack of reputation featured as the second highest factor that would prevent students and parents from choosing or recommending studying for a T Level qualification with 29% and 32% respectively.

Graph showing the results of Likeliness of Considering/Recommending a T Level Qualification by Gender

A lower percentage of males were likely to consider choosing a T Level as a post-GCSE progression route. However, the percentage of both male and females likely to consider the qualification dramatically increased following the presentation of key information regarding the T Level qualification.

Recommendations for preparing for T Levels

  • There is a need for a ‘college wide’ approach to fully support the implementation of the T Level qualification including support teams
  • Key influencer understanding of the qualification requires consideration, with the project identifying a lack of understanding and knowledge of the qualification as a key barrier to recruitment. This is prevalent not only among students but also among the parents and teachers who have been identified as the main influencers for progression and career choice options
  • National campaigns and promotions are essential; however, locally targeted interventions have demonstrated effectiveness in challenging perceptions and breaking traditional views for progression routes for students transitioning from school to college and these should be continued
  • Identification of key barriers to T Level recruitment provides a start point for colleges to develop a T Level Action Plan to remove barriers and support recruitment
  • Analysis of labour market information undertaken within the TRIP project identified local skills gaps and opportunities within the area will be useful when explaining the benefits of the qualification to students and parents
  • Promote awareness that involvement in the TRIP project supports schools and colleges to make progress towards achieving Gatsby Benchmarks, particularly:
    • Benchmark 2: Learning from career and labour market information
    • Benchmark 4: Linking curriculum learning to careers
    • Benchmark 7: Encounters with further and higher education.
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