Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield 12:00 am, 10th September 2018

What progress his Department is making on the introduction of T-levels; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

What progress his Department has made on the introduction of T-levels.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

We have made excellent progress and are working closely with the selected providers who will deliver the first three T-levels from 2020 in digital, education and childcare, and construction.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

An Opposition Member has mentioned apprenticeships, and T-levels are very important in that area, but the business placement has to be effective, and Government research has shown that businesses say that that is important, too. So what are the Government doing to work with businesses to make sure that these placements are effective and meet the requirements of both business and education?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend is right: a quality industrial placement is a fundamental feature of T-levels, and piloting of these placements is already under way. Providers will be receiving nearly £60 million in 2018-19 to work with businesses to deliver those placements, which will significantly reduce the burden on businesses.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

My right hon. Friend will know that Dudley College of Technology has been selected to pilot all three of the strands of T-levels. Will he ensure that colleges receive the resources they need to deliver T-levels effectively and make a success of this fantastic initiative?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I will and, as my hon. Friend will be aware, we have committed significant extra resourcing for T-levels, and in the immediate term we are working closely with the 2020 providers, including in Dudley, to make sure they have the support they need.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

How are we going to avoid T-levels suffering the same fate as many other technical and vocational education qualifications? As we heard from the earlier comments on apprenticeships, so much of this is about parity of esteem and vocational education being seen as second-rate. What are we going to do about that, because otherwise this will fail?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman asks the most pertinent question on this subject, and I asked it immediately upon assuming my job as Secretary of State in the Department for Education. One of the key differences from previous attempts at reforming this landscape is that we will be implementing the Sainsbury report in full, rather than picking and choosing bits that might suit the political mood of the moment, and with T-levels we are not trying to create an all-encompassing qualification that does academic and does vocational and everything else as well; these are vocational and technical qualifications. They will be of a very high standard, benchmarked against the leading systems in the world, with more hours at college, a meaningful industrial placement—as we have just been talking about—and the integration of English, maths and digital skills.

Photo of James Frith James Frith Labour, Bury North

At a recent Education Committee hearing, the Minister responsible for T-levels, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Anne Milton, said that her advice to parents would be to leave it a year following the launch of T-levels in 2020. Is the Secretary of State’s advice to employers offering placements to students that they should also leave it for a year? If not, what is he doing to raise knowledge of this technical qualification among employers? Simply willing it so will not make it so.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

No, willing it so would not make it so, but that is not what we are doing, and by the way, that is not what my right hon. Friend the Minister said in Committee either. I am pleased to be able to report that many thousands of businesses are already involved in this process through the design of the qualification and through putting forward placements in the first pilots of these industrial placements. That number will grow significantly this year.

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford

T-levels are a fantastic opportunity for preparation for the world of work. What further steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that businesses are onside and supportive, because there are some indications that some businesses are not behind this initiative?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend is right to suggest that businesses must be at the heart of this, and they are. The design of the qualifications is being done by business, and at every stage we are making sure that the leading players in every sector are involved in the design and the delivery.

Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education)

In June, in Education questions, I raised a range of substantial concerns with the Secretary of State about the progress of T-levels, but he pooh-poohed them, saying that he did not recognise the premises. Perhaps he will now recognise the three further reports that came out this summer, including one from his own Department, which show further concerns about the Government’s handling of the T-level process. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey showed that only 60% of employers had heard of T-levels, and that two thirds of small enterprises had not done so. Its advisers said there was a “fatal mismatch” between what employers needed and what the Government were offering. The Chartered Management Institute survey showed that two thirds of parents had not heard of T-levels, and the Department for Education’s own report said that employers needed clearer information and would not commit without it. The T-level process is in a mess, like the Secretary of State’s apprenticeship targets. It needs more Government money, more information, more resources and more capacity. What is he doing about that?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education

I am pleased to take the hon. Gentleman’s advice to devote more focus, more resourcing and more capacity to T-levels; that is precisely what we are doing. The programme is well on track and, far from what he has just described, it has the support of business and of the colleges that we are bringing in in the earliest stages. At the moment, this will involve only a relatively small number of students who are starting their GCSE courses this year and who will start their T-levels in a small number of colleges in 2020, but we will see the programme grow and grow from there.