In 2020 we chose to take a leap of faith and introduce T Levels to our school. The reasoning behind our decision was to improve the social mobility of our students.
Our school of 1,200 pupils is an inner-city comprehensive with nearly 40 per cent having received free school meals and over 60 per cent English as a second language. The majority of our students are first-generation university. Our students were successfully graduating from university but then did not have the personal links to be able to secure a high-quality graduate position.
T Levels provide a great opportunity for us to introduce them to employers and for them to gain important, sector-specific skills. After all, the first question asked at interview is often about experience.
Our journey began with the introduction of the Digital and the Education and Childcare T Levels – the first because there is a huge skills shortage in our area and the other because students were having to leave the school to study it.
To build our staff’s skills to deliver this highly technical course, we made use of the Education and Training Foundation’s industry insights offer. We were compensated for releasing our teachers go on work experience in their area of expertise.
As a business and economics teacher, I found my industry insights at Comensura. Meanwhile, ISG prepared me to teach on the Digital and Construction T Level. They helped me and my teams to create the curriculum and write the case studies that support it. Just a couple of years on, ISG is one of a host of construction companies supporting all our students with workshops for year 8s, apprenticeship talks for year9s, T Level placements and vital diversity and inclusion work.
As our relationships with the businesses started to develop, they were keen to deliver talks and workshops to the students. Eventually, this turned into industry placements. Building on these, we showcased our collaborative partnerships on Linkedin and other employers began to engage. Now, all our Digital students complete their industry placements at Lloyds Banking group or Amazon and progress onto degree apprenticeships in these organisations. Employers are invested in our students and feel part of their educational journey.
T Levels have dramatically improved our facilities too. For example, our Education students are taught in a simulated nursery funded by the DfE’s special equipment allocation (SEA) fund. Thanks to that, they’re able to go out to work in our feeder primary schools, which fits well with our Catholic ethos of serving others.
After our initial success with Digital and Education, we based our next wave of offer on the sectors that were popular with our students and where there were known local skills shortages. Health Midwifery was an ideal choice, so we invited all the local healthcare professionals for an open morning to see our mock hospital and meet our students. This led to a partnership for industry placements with Guys and St Thomas, which we were able to launch thanks to the DfE’s employer support fund.
While many continue with the university route, T Levels have added a route to success for many of our students in the form of degree apprenticeships. And the growing range of these on offer is pleasantly surprising. We have recently introduced the Legal T Level (for which we now have a mock court room) and our students are already working with Wimbledon magistrate court and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The opportunities these qualifications have given not just our T Level students but our entire school are unmatched, but don’t just take my word for it. Laster term, Ofsted called their introduction here “a great success” as part of an ‘Outstanding’ report.
Great for the school. Great for local employers. And best of all great for our students. So what’s holding you back?