A TRAILBLAZING college welcomed a government minister ahead of the roll-out of an 'exciting' new alternative to A-Levels.

Abingdon and Witney College is one of two providers in Oxfordshire selected to offer the new T-Levels in 2021, along with Activate Learning.

They will be among the first to offer the new two-year technical courses, which roll out at other providers in September and will be equivalent to three A-Levels.

Michelle Donelan, minister for children and families, visited the Abingdon campus yesterday and enthused about the 'radical' changes in technical education.

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She told the Oxford Mail: "People are really excited about T-Levels - it’s long-overdue, this radical shake-up in technical education in the UK.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to really lift [technical education] up to a level of academic excellence."

T-Levels have been developed alongside employers to better meet the changing needs of the industry and prepare students for work.

They will offer a mix of classroom-based learning and, crucially, 45 days of 'on the job' training.

Advocates pitch them as a skills-based career route for 16-19 year-olds, and in 2018 Theresa May described them as 'the most significant reform to advanced technical education in 70 years.'

Subjects range from accountancy to catering or construction, and providers had to register their interest if they wanted to offer them.

Ms Donelan said: "They’ve been written with employers to make sure the courses are fit for purpose, with a work placement of 315 hours, which is really a sizeable chunk.

"It’s about raising the bar in terms of the quality [of courses] to suit the needs of workplaces."

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Asked about the variety of options for students, from apprenticeships to university technical colleges, studio schools and BTECs, the Chippenham MP admitted: "At the moment there is a very complicated landscape.

"We are looking to make that more streamlined so students know what is best for them. We don’t want to double up, we’ve got to make sure that people can see [different] pathways."

Di Batchelor MBE, principal at the college, said: "Having Ms Donelan visit the college was an excellent opportunity to discuss the challenges the further and adult education sectors are currently facing, and to showcase some of the fantastic things our staff and students are doing here.

"Despite apprenticeships and T-Levels being very much in the media lens right now, we are always highlighting how learners of all ages and their local communities rely on colleges such as ours to make big differences in their lives."