Story by Lucy Hulme
Michelle Donelan, Minister for Higher and Further Education, met with students at Priestley College to discuss the impact that educational initiatives have had upon students.
The Minister was keen to hear from students who are on the T-Level programme, those who are engaged in national apprenticeship week, alongside students who are progressing to university. Also in attendance was Andy Carter, MP for Warrington South, another key supporter of vocational lead subjects within the curriculum.
Donelan promotes T-Levels as a new style of learning for those who prefer the ‘hands-on’ experience, whilst seeing the need to educate wider communities on their presence.
“We recognise that there is not much information on T-Levels yet, we are beginning a widespread campaign and advertisement process to promote them to potential employers and students,” Donelan said.
The T-Level program has strong government backing. “The government is funding large campaigns for the T-Level qualifications,” Carter said.
Priestley student Ashton Danci, who opted to take a T-Level in Digital Production, was surprised by the quality of the experience he gained.
“I expected to be making cups of tea but we’ve actually produced and presented ideas for a website on a Stockton Heath park,” he said.
Hannah Crowder, a student on the Childcare and Early Years course, expressed her enjoyment of the practical experience she has gained at a local primary school.
“I work alongside the teacher and teaching assistants in a reception class, helping the children with phonetics. It’s a good experience as I want to work in primary education in the future,” she said.
“It was so inspiring to meet a group of young people so dedicated to getting on with life,” Donelan said. She also praised the work and dedicated support provided by Priestley College.
“From Health Care to Journalism, whether it’s through T-Levels, an apprenticeship or university, Priestley College is helping young people to fulfil their dreams,” Donelan said.
T-Levels were introduced in September 2020 and provide students with an integrated learning system of traditional classroom teaching alongside an industry-based placement of at least 315 hours per year across a two-year course. At the end of the course students are rewarded with a qualification equivalent to 3 A-levels and valuable experience of life within the workplace, setting them on the track to further education or apprenticeships.
The visit fell during National Apprenticeship Week, which was designed to ‘shine a light’ on the positive differences that apprenticeships can make to individuals, employers and the wider community. However, some students in the meeting expressed concerns about a ‘lack of apprenticeships’ available within their area of study.
“I want to address this, if I had the option to do a degree apprenticeship I would have done, but they weren’t plentiful in my day,” Donelan said.
The Government has introduced incentives to get more businesses on board with apprenticeships, offering payments of £3000 for workplaces when they take on apprentices as well as holding talks with universities to offer a greater variety of degree-apprenticeship in further education.