Fifteen schools chosen as T-levels pioneers

Fifteen schools are among the first 52 providers chosen to deliver the government’s new technical qualifications.

These new T-Levels are designed to have “parity of esteem” with A-levels, and will give young people the option of a vocational route from the age of 16.

Three so-called “pathways” will be taught from September 2020, involving courses in design, surveying and planning for the construction industry, software application development for the digital industry, and education for the education and childcare industry.

Further courses will be rolled out in stages from 2023, covering areas such as design, accounting, and engineering.

While most of the 52 pioneering providers named by the education secretary Damian Hinds on March 27 are further education colleges or independent training providers, 15 are schools, including two university technical colleges and one studio school.

Schools Week contacted these 15 to ask which of the three courses they would be offering and how they were preparing to teach the new material.

Salesian School in Surrey is planning to deliver all three T-level routes.

Its headteacher James Kibble said that while plans are in their infancy, the school had “designated an existing staff member with a passion for technical education to lead the project and looks forward to developing the implementation plans over the coming weeks”.

Archbishop Holgate’s School in York will deliver the education course, as it is an area “the school is extremely confident in executing well in the initial roll-out stage”, according to Jo Kitney, its T-level lead.

In the future, the school hopes to offer T-levels in engineering, catering and hospitality, and health science.

“We recognise that all pupils have different aspirations, not every child wishes to move into further education to take purely academic based subjects,” Kitney said.

T-levels will give pupils the chance to follow “a more practical syllabus”, as opposed to one which is “based 100 per cent on exam outcomes”.

Pupils will be required to undertake an eight-week placement and complete components in “core skills” and “occupational specialism”.

The project has been plagued with delays, and the head civil servant at the Department for Education, Jonathan Slater, even wrote to Hinds last month imploring him not to go ahead with the 2020 start date, and delay until 2021.

This was the first letter of its type, known as a ministerial direction, ever to be issued by the education department. Hinds overruled it and asked the civil service to continue with the 2020 target.

Hinds insisted that naming the providers leading the project was “an important step forward” in the government’s plans.

“T-Levels represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform technical education in this country so we can rival the world’s best performing systems,” he said. “For too long young people have not had a genuine choice about their future aged 16.

“While A-levels provide a world-class academic qualification, many technical education courses are undervalued by employers and don’t always provide students with the skills they need to secure a good job – that has to change.”

Originally the government planned to scrap other applied general qualifications, such as BTEC nationals, which cover similar subjects and are popular in schools and sixth-form colleges, but it soon reversed this decision.