This week Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, announced the first 52 colleges and other education providers who will be teaching the new ‘T Level’.
Once introduced, this will trim the current range of over 13,000 technical qualifications into a much smaller number of high-quality, industry-focused courses, each with a clear pathway to employment.
Standards will be maintained by Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, and the Institute of Apprenticeships, and every course will include a mandatory three-month placement in industry.
This is a hugely important and welcome step. For too long, technical education has been unfairly treated as the poor relation of Britain’s world-class academic school system. This has been deeply unfair to generations of pupils who were not given the same opportunity as their academic peers to make the most of their talents and unlock their potential.
I’m proud that this Government has recognised how important it is to have a diverse, flexible education system, one which recognises that there are many different sorts of learner each with their own needs.
That’s why we have carried forward the academies programme and pioneered free schools, driving a huge shift in power towards teachers and parents, and recently announced new freedoms to expand for grammar and faith schools.
But as I have always said, support for specialist academic schools is only defensible as part of a broader ‘spectrum of specialisation’. We can’t go back to the bad old days when a few academic schools got all the attention and all the other children were left to fend for themselves in secondary moderns.
Our introduction of University Technical Colleges was the first step on the road to redressing the bias against technical education, and the T Level is the next.
This isn’t just a matter of social justice. We need to be equipping today’s young people with the skills and experience they will need to compete in the highly competitive, increasingly globalised workforce of the 21st Century. Our future prosperity depends on giving them the tools to succeed.
Julian Knight MP