Skills minister: I would advise my own children to 'leave it a year' before taking T-Levels

Camilla Turner
Skills Minister Anne Milton

The skills minister has said that she would advise her own children to “leave it a year” before taking the Government’s flagship T-Levels.

Anne Milton, the minister charged with overseeing the introduction of the new vocational qualifications, said that it will inevitably be “tough” to persuade parents of the merits of the new system.

During an Education Select Committee hearing, the Labour MP Lucy Powell asked Mrs Milton why a parent would want their child to do a childcare T-level when there was already a well-respected and industry-backed qualification in place.

Ms Milton responded: "The job of persuading parents to do any new qualification is always quite tough and we know that not huge numbers will do it in the first instance because... I mean, I’m a parent of four children.

“If somebody said to me, 'Your children could do this new qualification,' I’d say, ‘Leave it a year.'

“You know, instinctively, that is what parents will do. I think what we will need to do as a department, and the providers will need to do, is to make absolutely clear what you are getting in addition to any of the existing qualifications already set out."

The current system, where students have to pick from 13,000 different qualifications, will be replaced with just 15 standalone courses

The Labour MP James Frith said he found the minister’s comments “quite remarkable”, adding: “Why shouldn’t every other parent of the children considering what they do next also say, ‘Leave it [a year],’ when the minister in charge for launching this believes it is not right for your children and, in fact, they are not ready?”

Ms Milton later backtracked, telling MPs that “I probably made the mistake in using my own personal experience to emphasise the point that I think all parents are always wary of new qualifications.”

She went on to say: “The point about T levels is that we’re introducing them, designed by employers – they are very rigorous. I know that take-up will be low in the first years. It will take a while to persuade both young people and their parents that these are a cut above.”

If somebody said to me, 'Your children could do this new qualification,' I’d say, ‘Leave it a year'

Skills Minister Anne Milton

Earlier this year, the prime minister said the notion that vocational education was for “other people’s children” needed to change.

Theresa May urged people to “throw away" the "outdated attitude” that university is the only desirable route for young people.

Last year the Government announced that it would be launching the biggest overhaul of post-16 education in 70 years, as part of a multibillion pound drive to improve technical training.

Philip Hammond unveiled his “radical” plans to put technical education on an equal footing with academic studies in his Budget last March.

The current system, where students have to pick from 13,000 different qualifications, will be replaced with just 15 standalone courses.

Teenagers who undertake the technical training, such as courses to become an engineer or builder, will spend 50 per cent longer learning than they do now, equalling 900 hours of teaching a year.

The new qualifications, which will see the courses dubbed “T-levels” - the technical version of A-levels, are due to be piloted from 2020.