I’ve been advocating for technical education and apprenticeships my entire parliamentary career. That is why the prime minister’s commitment to putting technical and academic education on an equal footing is so welcome, accompanied by additional funding for further education.
This week is Colleges Week, the perfect time to celebrate the incredible work which our FE colleges do, offering a ladder of opportunity and the prospect of a skilled job to people.
Technical education means a foot in the door. It means practical, on-the-job experience and support to learn the vital skills that our economy – and country – needs. It opens up competitive sectors to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I share the vision of the prime minister and the education secretary to bring about parity of esteem between academic and technical education.
This is why T Levels were first introduced, and why we have made significant investment in apprenticeships, including degree apprenticeships, to broaden options and get people to take technical education seriously.
This is not the end of T Levels, which will be the backbone of the new qualification. Thousands of young people who have completed T Levels have gone on to apprenticeships, jobs with top employers, and places at university. This year, over 90% of T Level students passed, and over 95% completed an industry placement before getting their final results.
Our groundbreaking new qualification, the Advanced British Standard, will build on the success of T Levels and A-levels. Students will continue to have the option to do an industry placement.
By combining technical and academic routes into one qualification, we will boost the prestige of technical education and level the playing field. This will, at long last, put an end the artificial divide between academic and technical education.
T Levels will be the foundation of the technical options within the Advanced British Standard, and we will continue their roll-out. Those of you familiar with T Levels’ structure will recognise much in the proposals published last week, including a ‘core’ module, an occupational specialism and industry placement.
The Advanced British Standard represents the next steps in delivering much-needed reform of our 16-19 system, which we are backing with £600 million of initial investment.
That initial funding boost over two years includes offering payments of up to £6,000 tax free for teachers in key academic and technical shortage subjects such as maths and science in the first five years of their teaching career, helping to bring in the talented staff we need to deliver.
And, for the first time, we are extending these incentives to all FE colleges. It is wrong that they have been overlooked to date, so we are changing that.
The new qualification will raise the floor and extend the ladder of opportunity for everyone, providing more breadth, increased teaching time, and a greater focus on technical education. That’s how we will give our children the brighter future they deserve, by better preparing them for the future workplace.
The Advanced British Standard is a long-term reform that will take a decade to deliver in full. In the meantime, we will continue to champion and promote T Levels as an ongoing priority.
We will not hold back T Levels’ growth and development, or our wider reforms to technical qualifications. More T Level courses will be rolled out, and students will be encouraged to consider these options. Let’s not forget that, since launching in 2020, tens of thousands of students have already successfully enrolled in these high-quality qualifications.
A consultation will open this autumn on the Advanced British Standard, asking education providers and other stakeholders for their views on its development.
I am excited to work with you as we shape the proposals set out last week, which will build on T Levels’ success. These reforms will give young people the best start to adult life, through a world-class education system that prioritises the skills that businesses need.