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Exciting qualification cultivating the next generation of farmers

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A leading land-based institution in the UK, Bishop Burton College in East Yorkshire offers first class specialist agriculture education from post 16 through to degree level.  

Making a choice about which direction to take after GCSEs is a big decision; and in these challenging times a key consideration has to be the future and how any course will deliver good career prospects.

Even the very best qualification is no substitute for experience. Whilst many post 16 courses have hands-on elements, industry exposure is invaluable and not just from a practical perspective.

Working is so much more than just practical skills, it’s also social – being able to work as part of a team and communicate effectively.

Bishop Burton College, near Beverley in East Yorkshire has been delivering first-class agriculture education for 70 years.

The college, which was recently rated Good by Ofsted, with some Outstanding features is committed to ensuring all students leave prepared and ready for the world of work or further study.

As such, the college is constantly developing and re-defining the curriculum to meet the needs of the sector.

T-level course

In September 2023, it became amongst the first colleges in the country to be delivering the innovative new T-level in Agriculture, Land Management and Production.

T-levels are post GCSE two-year courses, broadly equivalent to three A Levels and accruing UCAS points.

They were developed in conjunction with employers to equip young people with the technical and practical skills to excel in the workforce.

What sets T-levels apart from other vocational and technical qualifications is the combination of academic classroom-based and hands-on activities alongside a substantial industry placement.

“This qualification presents a unique opportunity for students to acquire theoretical knowledge and practical experience at college, which they can then put into practice in working farm environments,” explains Land Based Head of Department, Helen Martin.

“This approach is hugely advantageous for students as they get the best of both worlds – an academic qualification that is backed up by real-world experience.”

For many students on the T-level, the industry placement was a huge attraction. Scarlet Henson, from Ravenscar near Scarborough, said: “I thought the T-level sounded good because of the industry placement.

“I thought it might help me find jobs, as I would be going in with more experience. Already I’ve found that I am able to apply what I’ve learnt at college on my placement.”

Jamie Strawson, from Horncastle echoes this, pinpointing the industry placement as an advantage over alternative courses.

Hands-on experience

“The industry placement is a bit like having a job, whilst being in education. I’ll be getting hands-on skills and learning on the job as well as in the classroom. I’m hoping to go to university to specialise in land management and this experience will help with my UCAS application.”

Helen continues: “The exposure for students to workplace situations develops and builds a wealth of additional social skills that will give them a real edge in terms of employability.

“They learn to interact with colleagues and engage with external suppliers, work as part of a team dynamic and use their initiative to handle the social nuances of workplace environments.

“These soft skills are hugely appealing to prospective employers and highly valued by universities.”

Scarlet has really benefited from her experiences so far on placement: “I’m not from a farming background and so much is completely new to me. However, the industry placement has really helped me get to grips with the course and I’ve developed so much confidence.

“Having to think on my feet is challenging but also really good and my placement employer has been so supportive and patient. I’m learning so much!”


A further advantage of the T-level is the ability for students to specialise from the outset of the course through an ‘occupational specialism’.

Agriculture Lecturer John Mason explains “The T-level enables students to study what they’re really interested in immediately; choosing from an occupational specialism pathway in livestock production or crop production.

“This means practical and theoretical sessions at college are geared towards this specialism rather than broader in approach and they get to focus on what they are passionate about.

“The industry placement then consolidates everything, by placing students with an employer who operates in the relevant sphere of farming.

“Plus, they have the opportunity to learn first-hand from agricultural professionals, on the ground, in real-life scenarios.

So, from the very beginning they are developing their vocation, with specialist skills and experiences they can take forward into their career.”

The ability to specialise, has proven to be incredibly popular. Tom Benson, from Kelfield, near York who is following the Crop Production pathway is enjoying the T-level for this reason.

“Agriculture is something I’m passionate about and I enjoy learning about something I’m interested in,” he said. “I liked the way I could choose to focus on crop rather than livestock, as this is what I want to do in the future.

“I’d like to go out to America or Australia and work on farms there.”

The response from students to this new qualification and unique approach has been incredibly positive.

It’s been great to use skills I’m developing at college in a different real-life setting Livestock production student Imogen Barrow

Livestock production student Imogen Barrow, from Scunthorpe said: “I’m really enjoying my industry placement as I’m working on a dairy farm, that sells raw milk and milkshakes.

“I’ve worked with cattle before but on a beef unit, not in a dairy and we’ve been calving. When I’ve completed my course, I want to go to university and learn more about the business side as I ultimately want to own my own livestock farm.

“It’s been great to use skills I’m developing at college in a different real-life setting.” 

Although only running since September 2023 the college can already see how the ambitions for the qualification are being realised to ensure students cultivate the skills, mindset and hands-on abilities essential for successful careers, apprenticeships, or degree level study.

Director Land Based Studies Sharron Mansell commented: “Even in the short time since students started on their T-level journey, the skills we are seeing demonstrated by these young people are of a very high level and their confidence is growing week on week. 

On completion, I firmly believe we will have some exceptionally capable, experienced and knowledgeable agricultural professionals ready to move into employment or further study at university.

“Whether you’re from a farming or non-farming background if you have a passion for agriculture, then you can flourish on this course, to emerge as highly employable and ready to contribute to the future of agriculture.”

Bishop Burton T-level

The college is currently accepting applications for September 2024.

To discover more about agriculture at Bishop Burton and the T-level in Agriculture Land Management and Production please visit