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West Suffolk College and Suffolk New College win Government backing to deliver new T-levels

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Two colleges in Suffolk have been given government backing to deliver new vocational courses designed as an alternative to A-levels.

The Department for Education announced its first wave of T-levels would be taught from September 2020, which will combine industry placements, classroom learning and practical skills in vocational subjects.

The DfE last week published a list of successful bidders, with Suffolk New College awarded a contract to deliver the construction sector T-level from September 2020.

West Suffolk College. Picture by Mark Westley.
West Suffolk College. Picture by Mark Westley.

The course will include elements of design, surveying and planning, and launch in September 2020, being just one of 17 colleges nationally to offer the course.

Alan Pease, deputy principal, said: “T-levels will become the new ‘gold standard’ in technical education.

“We feel immensely proud to be working with the Department for Education to shape these new qualifications and deliver the construction route as an early adopter from September 2020.

“T-levels present us with the opportunity to broaden our curriculum offer and engage young people in a future-proofed technical education curriculum, which combines academic content, vocational specialist pathways, work experience and relevant digital skills.

“Students can expect high quality provision that has been shaped by key employers in each sector. It allows a young person to enter employment with the key skills required by employers to have successful careers.”

Our commitment to our students is to not only give them an outstanding learning experience but to also make the connections with business they need - Angela Berry

West Suffolk College meanwhile secured backing for the second batch of courses beginning in September 2021 in digital, education and childcare, and heath and science.

Angela Berry, executive director of partnerships at the college, said: “As leaders of education in the east we are thrilled and excited to be delivering the new T-levels from September 2021 to our students studying digital, education, childcare, health and science.

“This will follow on from our success delivering the industry placement pilot, a significant part of the technical education reforms.

“As a college our commitment to our students is to not only give them an outstanding learning experience but to also make the connections with business they need to progress into a successful and rewarding careers and have the strength of character to be happy and live a fulfilled life.”

Education secretary Damian Hinds said the courses were designed to be 'high quality technical alternatives to A-levels'.

“Everyone agrees that a radical shake-up of technical and vocational education in this country is long overdue,” he said.

“T-levels are our chance to do that – offering young people high-quality alternatives to our world-class A-levels from September 2020.”

The DfE is giving £3.75million nationally to the first providers as they develop the first string of programmes.

Other courses in legal business, finances and accounting, engineering and manufacturing and creative design are expected to join in 2021.

What are T-levels?

T levels are new two-year courses introduced by the Department for Education, as an equivalent to A-levels.

The first courses will start in 2020, and will be on offer for students completing their GCSEs from July 2020.

The DfE says they will be the equivalent of three A-levels, and have been developed alongside businesses and industry professionals to give students hands on experience for the career they aim to go into.

The courses will combine traditional classroom-based learning, on the job work, experience and skills and an industry placement of at least 315 hours, around 45 days.

T-levels will not replace any other post-16 learning choice, but will be offered alongside them, meaning students can choose to go down a route with A-levels, apprenticeships or the new T-levels.

As well as the career-specific skills, the DfE says the courses will also provide a minimum standard in maths and English for students who have not already achieved those.