Milton builds FAB bridges towards T-level reforms

The skills minister declared herself to be “pleased and excited” to be at the Federation of Awarding Bodies annual conference, as she made good on the government’s promise to reset its relationship with the federation following its aborted legal challenge this summer.

Speaking on the first day of the event, held in Leicester on October 18 and 19, Anne Milton made clear that she planned to work together with awarding organisations to implement the government’s reforms.

“For T-levels to be a success we need to get to a whole new level of teamwork. We need partnership across the entire system,” she said.

Partnership, Ms Milton explained, meant “you being with us every step of the way”.

“It means that we want to listen and learn from you. It means that we want to draw on the huge amount of experience that you have behind you.”

The skills minister also referred to the controversial tender process for the qualifications, that will see just one awarding body selected to deliver each one.

In July this year FAB threatened legal action against the government’s proposals for the new qualifications, on the grounds that the timescales were irrational, there was a lack of proper engagement on the single-provider model and they would have a disproportionate effect on the sector.

However, these plans were dropped in early August after the Department for Education watered down a number of its plans and offered to reset its relationship with awarding bodies.

The closing date for bids in the tender is October 26, and Ms Milton said she had “no doubt we’ll get some really strong bids because this is a chance to be at the forefront of some really groundbreaking and lasting changes”.

With 22 T-levels yet to launch, she said it “would be really great to see bids from all parts of the sector, including awarding bodies pooling their expertise in consortia”.

Ms Milton had opened her speech by saying she was “particularly pleased to be able to use one of the best acronyms in the business” and declared “you are fabulous”.

She closed her speech by expressing her gratitude for being invited to speak at the event.

“I look forward to continuing to work together, making sure we get all our changes right,” she said.

Ms Milton’s remarks about T-levels followed a plea from FAB chair Paul Eeles during his speech immediately before the skills minister took to the stage.

He said the federation supported the “principle of T-levels as part of a holistic approach to technical-education reform”.

But he said the organisation “would like to see a more proactive approach to encourage consortia bids from our members so that we avoid the single point of failure problem, of awarding just a single licence per T-Level pathway”.

Mr Eeles said he believed “we can positively reset our relationship with government, despite the recent challenges”, and that he was “looking forward” to working more closely with government “to make the technical education reforms a real success”.

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