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News and Events > October 2017 > Milton Abbey Leading the Way With Unique Curriculum

Milton Abbey Leading the Way With Unique Curriculum

Today’s news from the Department of Education that a new ‘Education and Childcare’ T Level will be available from 2020 has kept the media focus on vocational learning and training, sustaining the momentum given to this area of debate and development in January with the publication of the government’s Green Paper on its industrial strategy (  The section on ‘Developing Skills’ is the one in which its approach to the further development of vocational learning and teaching is laid out, pages 37-51 of a paper which is 132 pages long, so about 10% of the paper, which is probably less than we would want but more than we would expect. At Milton Abbey we’ve been really pleased to see the focus of the educational debate moving onto vocational studies. We’re proud of the fact that amongst the independent sector we offer the broadest range of BTEC courses. The government’s new T Level initiative doesn’t replace BTECs, but compliments them. They’re two year stand-alone courses in education and childcare, digital industries, and construction, three key areas in which the government feels the country lacks school leavers with the right kinds of skills.
One area highlighted in the Green paper is quality careers information and advice. “Our improved education and skills system must be supported by high-quality careers provision. We know that young people who are uncertain or unrealistic about career ambitions at the age of 16 are three times more likely than their peers to spend significant periods out of education, employment or training. And teenagers who have direct experience of the labour market (such as through careers talks at school), earned more in adulthood than those who missed out.” At Milton Abbey the quality of our careers advice, led by Josh Bradbury as Head of Sixth Form, but using also the school’s excellent network of contacts with the MAA (the Milton Abbey Association), is very impressive. On Monday the 30th of October, straight after half term, we have an old boy, Paul Farrer, Chairman of Aspire ( a global digital and media recruitment company, coming to talk to the 6th form about their career choices and why they might want to look at a career in his industry sector. So pretty good practice as far as the government are concerned.  
Our BTEC courses such as Creative Media Production deliver industry specific skills and learning. This year four of our leavers went to a variety of new universities (not research led Russell Group universities) to take degree courses in computer game design, a growth industry like few others in terms of the demand for new skills and ideas for innovation. But alongside them we had leavers following more traditional routes – History of Art at Oxford Brookes, for example, or pharmacology at King’s, London. I deliberately don’t use ‘academic’ as the correlative to ‘vocational’, because as a school community we know that vocational courses are every bit academic as an A Level.
So at the beginning of another academic year its worth celebrating the breadth of study we offer at Milton Abbey, as well as the range of outcomes our leavers achieve and variety of destinations they receive offers from. The new 1-9 GCSE grading is a legacy of Michael Gove, rehabilitated from his period in the political wilderness after being Education Secretary with new responsibility for the Environment. The unresolved tension within government is between the business and industry lobby who want a better qualified and more highly skilled workforce, and a neo-traditionalist lobby in education who want more facts, more exams, less coursework and more rigour (whatever that means). Milton Abbey, better than any other independent school I know, is able to ride these two horses at the same time within its unique curriculum.