Exams, Apprentiships and Skills

More than two decades on, I can remember getting my A-Level results as if it were yesterday. It’s a grim, nail-biting time. Congratulations to all those who have done well, and a big thank you to the wonderful teaching staff who, year on year, help Cheltenham’s young people achieve so much. Good luck too to all those getting their GCSE results next week.

I passionately believe that school success shouldn’t simply be about the academic subjects. At a time of national technical skills shortage compared to other countries, it has never been more important to restore the credibility and prestige of technical education.

During the first industrial revolution, Britain was known as the ‘workshop of the world’. Now we need to thrive in the so-called ‘fourth’ industrial revolution, with Gloucestershire sharing in that success.

That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about the development of the new ‘T-levels’ and higher level apprenticeships. T-levels are new technical study programmes that have been designed in partnership with Government and business to develop skills that sit within fifteen industry routes. They will help young people secure employment, including with local businesses such as GE Aviation and Safran Landing Systems, who need well qualified staff to meet a changing world.

As for degree-level apprenticeships, they are already up and running at the University of Gloucestershire. The courses in cyber security, para-planning and healthcare are revolutionary. By combining studying with working part-time, students graduate with a full degree but without a penny of tuition fee debt. In this partnership between students and employers, both sides gain.

Why does all this matter? Because if we want to see true social mobility, where people of all backgrounds can go as far as their talents will take them, there needs to be greater choice in education. One size does not fit all.

In Cheltenham, where there are pockets of entrenched deprivation sitting alongside areas of affluence, education is a vital tool to tackling social injustice and the key to unlocking young people’s potential. The future of our town depends on it.