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Richard Huish College joins campaign to #ProtectStudentChoice

Eleven organisations that represent staff and students in schools, colleges and universities have issued a joint statement urging the government to rethink plans to remove funding for the majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs.

The organisations involved are Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Collab Group Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA), NASUWT, National Education Union (NEU), National Education Opportunities Network (NEON), National Union of Students (NUS), Schools, Students, and Teachers Network (SSAT), Unison, University Alliance.

Richard Huish College is in full support of the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign and calling on others to join the campaign. 

The Department of Education’s proposal is to introduce a binary system of T Levels and A Levels at Level 3 and reduce funding for applied general qualifications (AGQs). While A Levels and T Levels are a good choice for some learners, the college strongly believes AGQs still have a vital role to play for a huge number of students.

Huish currently delivers a range of vocational subjects, many of which can be studied alongside A Levels in a mixed programme. For many, being able to study through a mixture of learning styles allows them to build a higher variety of skills in preparation for higher education, apprenticeships and the workplace. Some also find they benefit from a greater range of assessment methods when planning their workloads and find a mixed programme is their route to success.

Huish student Roo Harrington Barwick has just completed a study programme of psychology and sociology A Levels alongside BTEC music production and is headed to study human science at Oxford in September. He found that the BTEC course was a perfect accompaniment for his career aspirations.

He said: “A lot of the work in vocational music consists of large long-term projects and so the course is really great for learning organisational and planning skills that I simply would not have if I didn’t take the course.

“What’s more, there are so many opportunities to collaborate creative ideas with friends and other musicians that teamwork becomes second nature and group projects are built so organically and effectively. Being in such a healthy, creative environment enables creative innovation to flourish and it really encourages and rewards thinking outside of the box and coming up with new and different solutions to the problems you encounter.”

He added “Without a doubt I would recommend vocational music. It’s perfect for providing and honing valuable alternative skills for life that universities also love to see. It can equip you for a future in any route – whether you take the subject further or, like me, you use such transferable skills to go down a completely different road. It definitely does not close any doors, and in my case, it opened more that I could only dream of.”

A spokesman for the college said people were diverse and the education style of AGQs was advantageous to many. The college wanted #ProtectStudentChoice and continue to help all students to maximise their potential, while also ensuring the next generation could start their careers with diverse skillsets.

While T Levels provide an option for practical learners, the SFCA noted that many students who wanted to progress to professional practice higher education courses, such as public services, nursing and allied professions, pharmacy, optometry, benefited more from the applied/practical learning in an AGQ than they would from the more academic/theoretical learning in an A level. T levels were designed to primarily lead to skilled employment rather than higher education and were not available in all subject areas.

In a joint statement, the 11 organisations have called on the Government to reconsider their plans and raised concerns that the impact of such changes to education would most affect disadvantaged students.

Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “The Government’s plan to sweep away the majority of applied general qualifications like BTECs will make it harder for many young people to access higher education and harder for many employers to access the skills they need. Ministers must protect student choice and guarantee that applied general qualifications have a major role to play in the future”.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “Scrapping applied generals will pull the rug from under the feet of the 200,000 young people who benefit each year from taking these proven and established qualifications which provide a great pathway to university courses, training and careers. It is a hugely unnecessary risk which will hit disadvantaged youngsters hardest.”

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