Video transcript - Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College

Kirstie Kohling, Assistant Principal for Quality and Curriculum

We decided to offer T Levels and expand our curriculum to meet the needs of the students, so we serve a diverse community across the city of Leeds, but also the surrounding areas. It offers students an alternative route into higher education, into employment, but also higher level apprenticeships which fit nicely with that. They get the opportunity to actually work in industry and apply the skills they've learned in the classroom, which other routes don't necessarily offer.

The students are gaining so much more out of their time here with us. They've experienced things they wouldn't do one of the courses. They've had first-hand industry experience with some big companies across Leeds and the surrounding areas. We have students who will be placed in these teaching hospitals. We also have students going out into nursery schools and they'll be working for long term placements there, they wouldn't have otherwise.

Partnerships and collaboration are essential if you're going to make a success of T Levels. We work really closely with Leeds City College and we also work with Leeds City Council, but also with the Health Academy and the teaching hospitals in Leeds. We aim between us to work to create a pipeline of young people for the future of Leeds, to secure the economic future of the city.

Richard Hall, Marketing Manager

So we've raised the profile of T Levels locally in a number of ways, through traditional routes of doing assemblies, usual school years, and activities such as attending career events and parents evenings. We've also explored nontraditional ways such as that do it webinars for each of our T Level subjects at Notre Dame.

Jennifer Thompson, Head of Health and Social Care

With regards to recruiting T Level students.

It a whole college approach we would do marketing to advertise the course as students know if it's the right course for them.

I would also personally interview every student that then applies for the course so I can give them the guidance to make sure they know what the course entails.

Prior to students enrolling, we send students a letter and we invite them in on two specific days and those students will come in, they will enrol with myself and then they will be invited for a day Where they can come and get more information about the cost, meet health professionals that we invite in employers, ambassadors that can come and give them a bit more insight into the course as well.

For the induction students is heavily based on placement, so we inform students about information for DBS checks, information for vaccinations and also we look at ordering any uniforms placement require.

Georgia Ferguson, Employer Engagement Lead

To involve employers in our induction process we invite them to several events ahead of enrolment, along with parents and prospective students. We host events where we show them what we're doing in placement.

Specifically in health there’s various sectors within the industry. Ahead of the students starting their industry placement, we ensure that they complete 35 hours of employability sessions. These are typically set up once a week in an hour slot, led by myself and the achievements tutor. These typically range from basic soft skills to how to prepare to get to your work placement.

So we do bring in external employers, often recruitment companies, to do mock interviews with the employers. We bring in sort of speech coaches so we get the students to speak about things that maybe they might not normally want to talk about openly. Just to put them in that situation that when they're in the workplace they will have to communicate with different kinds of people.

Adam: T Level student, digital production, design and development

I found out about T Levels on my enrolment day for Notre Dame. So I originally was going to do an A Level, but when I came in and was in the induction process, I was speaking to somebody and they mentioned about T Levels, a new course which was heavily based on the soft skills required for the workplace and in the industry placement as well, which I found really interesting.

Jamie Taylor, CTO – RJJ Software

Within Adam's first week or so, the typical onboarding process was essentially -

We sat him down and we said, here's a laptop with all of the software you need to be able to complete this project. Here is your project and here are the contacts you need. You can get in contact with whoever for these particular things. This is the software we used to build the stuff with. He just flew.

He just started from the techniques that he learned and the knowledge that he has from this course has really allowed him to hit the ground running and effectively I was playing catch up 'cause he was moving too fast for me.

Jennifer Thompson, Head of Health and Social Care

From completing year one of the T Level, we have learned that sending students out in year one would be more beneficial to contextualise the learning. It would also help with year 2 because a lot of the content that they cover in year two and would cross over with year one and they could learn some of that on the placement.

Typically within our sixth form college we have everything in a block, so all subjects are blocked out. We've had to take this completely out, for T Levels. It does not work because there's no flexibility there for the employers. We need to plan our lessons around what works well for the employers and their placements, so if that means an employer needs the students for 9 weeks, we have to make sure curriculum fits around this.

We have also worked collaboratively with Leeds City College with the health T Level. Where we have grown the same timetables, this means that for the employer it works better because all the students go out on placement on the same day.

Stephen Wood, Assistant Head of Digital

We're really proud of the outstanding support that we offer our students so that they can maximise their potential and fully achieve on our Digital T Level course. The way we support students with SEND while they're on industry placement is to make sure, first and foremost, that they're matched up with the right employer, so their skillset and their ability is perfect for what the employer is after. The next thing we also do is to pass on any details that we have for the student onto their employer and within their normal, say 3 or 4 monitoring visits, we might schedule in a few extra monitoring visits to make sure they're absolutely spot on. Week after week, if there's any issues outside of those monitoring visits, we often liaise with both parents and the employer individually just to make sure everything is going smoothly.

The greatest challenges while we've been running the digital T Level course is some unforeseen problems such as the technical nature of the course and how the students need to work. It's an entirely different way to what a lot of other course of work. It's more of a workplace, so they need essentially less restrictions and that has been a bit of a priority for us to nail with our IT support team.

Another challenge we've also faced is with the work experience and when we initially did this we were liaising quite closely with the businesses and the employers, whether they want two smaller placements or one really long placement. So we've reacted to that and gone with one really long placement.

But another thing we found is that students need work experience and essentially professional environment skills, which we've had to build on because it's not something they naturally come with through a typical educational route.

Rhyz – T Level student, Health

Route, but I want to go to university. I'm not sure which one yet, but I want to go into further study of adult nursing. Final goal, hopefully, is to go into theater nursing. I know it's a very hard job, but I want to achieve that. Yeah, I'm actually really excited to go on placement at Leeds Teaching Hospital, I'm slightly nervous, but because of the health T Level I’ve acquired the skills and knowledge that will help me to be more confident, I feel more prepared.

Zheinab, T Level Student, Health

I’d say T Level has really helped me to make my mind up on what I wanted to do. If I'm being honest, nursing was my last option if I didn't know what I wanted to do and then I chose T Level. And I gained this passion for nursing.

Adam: T Level student, digital production, design and development

I think my T Levels already helped me to prepare for my next steps, especially with my industry placement with my excellent line manager who's given me tons of amazing projects that I can use later in life in my career to really show off what I've done in my T Level, but also a set of my knowledge and skills that I've progressed form my T Level.  

Jamie Taylor, CTO – RJJ Software

For me, the benefits for SME for hosting any kind of student from any placement, but specifically from the T Levels, is that you're getting someone who has all of those skills that you need. And so you don't have to worry about or do I need to teach them there? So we don’t need to teach them that because they've already picked it up from the course that they do. But also you have that wonderful feeling of being able to give back and share that knowledge, share their experience, but then have it come back the other way as well because there are things that Adam has been learning in his course and learning during the time that we've worked together where he has trained me.

Kirstie Kohling, Assistant Principal for Quality and Curriculum

It's important to invest in your staff, that's the key thing. But to take your stuff with you, you need that buy in. We were lucky we had experience of capacity delivery fund which the government ran and so it was a natural progression for us, so staff were used to students going out on placement.

Yeah, our recruitment strategy is more open than it used to be, so we would look for as well as the academic side of somebody’s CV, we would now look for people from industry backgrounds to support us with more of the technical aspects of the course.

Stephen Wood, Assistant Head of Digital

Some examples of how we support staff with developing industry placement skills or specific skill sets is to place them within local companies or businesses such as we've had one member staff go to NHS digital for a week to learn all the skills about DevOPS and technical abilities. We've liaised with local universities and businesses such as Game studios to learn what is trending and all the skills we might need to put in place.

Georgia Ferguson, Employer Engagement Lead

One of my top tips for providers would be to take on somebody within my role. So my background is recruitment, nothing to do with education and I've been taught that you need to contact people directly, so that's what I do. You have to pick up the phone and speak to these employers. Reach out to the HR managers, directors, sending emails, you're not going to get a response, but if you get through some directors you'll be one step closer to getting the placements.

Stephen Wood, Assistant Head of Digital

The advice I would give to colleges looking to develop a T Level course is to realise it can be taught in a completely different manner. It doesn’t have to fit your typical sort of blocking system. You don't have to teach it as if it were 3 discrete A levels. It can be taught holistically, in terms of whatever order you want, however you want, as long as it best fits the students and the staff at that college.

Kirstie Kohling, Assistant Principal for Quality and Curriculum

And my top tips for other providers, so particularly six form colleges and schools, would be to be flexible, so flexibility of staffing, of timetabling, to plan early and these courses do take quite a bit of planning. To get it right, but also to get your special equipment money allocated and make sure that you know what you want to get in terms of interest and equipment.

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