NEW 'T-Levels' for students studying technical subjects at school and college must not become part of a 'two-tier system', it has been warned.

The qualifications, announced in Wednesday's Budget, have been welcomed in principle by teachers and employers as helping to boost the profile of technical and vocational education.

But educationalists have also warned that they must be implemented properly to avoid them being seen as less prestigious than A-Levels.

Director of Didcot Sixth Form Paul Willett said: "Ensuring students have access to meaningful technical qualifications,for example in construction, agriculture, retail or ICT, and that are not only valued by employers but are qualifications that they have helped shape, is a positive step forward in 16-19 education.

"There does, however, remain an issue with equality and coherence in 16-19 qualifications as a whole.

"Whether a student is guided down the technical, A-Level or a mixed route the only determinant should be that the student receives a rigorous and world class education,with relevant training and the development of skills needed to help the economy flourish."

Mr Willett added that the Government needed to make sure the importance of technical qualifications was recognised for younger pupils too.

He said: "If there is value in students taking technical qualification post 16, it is not recognised pre-16 as an equitable pathway to further education or apprenticeship."

Announcing T-Levels on Wednesday the Chancellor said they would provide a 'much clearer system of qualifications' that would be designed and recognised by employers with clear routes into work.

He claimed they would replace 13,000 different qualifications with 15 'clear, career-focused routes'.

These benefits were welcomed by Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Nigel Tipple, who said they would help employers

Mr Tipple said: "It's an attempt to create clarity across the sector, so businesses understand what the level of qualifications are.

"There have been so many different kinds of technical qualifications in the past and so hopefully this will simplify the system.

"A-Levels have been, historically, very easy to understand and it is about showing that T-Levels are of equal worth."

But National Union of Teachers Oxfordshire spokesman Gawain Little said he was concerned some pupils would be pushed towards A-Levels or T-Levels based on their background.

He said: "T-Levels will be the poor relation to A-Levels.

"Children will be pushed down one route or another and will not do a mix.

"Children from one background will be pushed, regardless of whether they want to, into doing A-Levels and children from another background into doing T-Levels.

"That is one of the worst aspects of it."

Currently some students will study technical subjects at A-Level, while others will study BTECs or other qualifications.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: "T-Levels will vastly improve the quality of technical education and plug our country's skills gap."