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Private schools urge pupils to choose Btecs not degrees

  • Number of independent school pupils taking Btecs has doubled over four years
  • Julian Thomas, Wellington College head, hails the 'higher education revolution'
  • Across the country 376,000 are enrolled on the vocational trade-based courses
  • Heads are pointing pupils towards the courses to prepare for jobs in the City 

By Sebastian Murphy-bates For Mailonline

Published: 05:54 EDT, 26 August 2017 | Updated: 06:03 EDT, 26 August 2017

Private schools are urging more pupils to take vocational courses in a move to stop pushing all students toward further education.

Pupils turning to Btec vocational qualifications instead of A levels has doubled at independent schools since 2013.

Head teachers say they are advising pupils to learn a trade as they are faced with questions over whether degrees are good value for money, with heads arguing that companies favour applicants with technical and business skills.

Private schools are encouraging more people to take Btec qualifications after being faced with questions about whether degrees are good value for money
Private schools are encouraging more people to take Btec qualifications after being faced with questions about whether degrees are good value for money

Private schools are encouraging more people to take Btec qualifications after being faced with questions about whether degrees are good value for money

Subjects popular with pupils include construction, animal management, engineering and agriculture according to The Times. 

It says that fewer than half of those enrolling on vocational qualifications at sixth form go to university.

Heads are also encouraging school-leavers to go straight into work with degree apprenticeships, which were unveiled by the government in 2015. 

The apprenticeships allow students to learn to degree level through practical projects while being paid and appeal to those looking for careers in the City and engineering.

Wellington College in Berkshire held its first degree apprenticeship conference this year, with master Julian Thomas saying it marked a change in the way vocational courses are viewed.  

The head of Wellington College in Berkshire says pupils are questioning whether or not university is the right route for everyone
The head of Wellington College in Berkshire says pupils are questioning whether or not university is the right route for everyone

The head of Wellington College in Berkshire says pupils are questioning whether or not university is the right route for everyone

'We're seeing only the beginnings of a shift in perception,' he said. 'It feels to me like the blue touchpaper is being lit on what could be a higher education revolution.

'From the moment that tuition fees trebled, the shift in perception became inevitable. 

'There's a sense of greater questioning whether or not university is the right route for everyone. The level of student debt is shocking. 

'At the same time, I speak to a number of CEOs of big companies and they say graduates are not well prepared for work.'

Today the Independent Schools Council (ISC) published schools showing entries for Btecs rose by a fifth last year across the 452 ISC schools that shared results. 

Retiring head of St Paul's Girls' School in west London, Clarissa Farr, says a new 'entrepreneurshipcol' scheme will help students explore business innovation
Retiring head of St Paul's Girls' School in west London, Clarissa Farr, says a new 'entrepreneurshipcol' scheme will help students explore business innovation

Retiring head of St Paul's Girls' School in west London, Clarissa Farr, says a new 'entrepreneurshipcol' scheme will help students explore business innovation

The figures reveal that the number of Btecs taken at ISC schools has more than doubled over the last four years, with 765 taken by 603 pupils this year.

Lasts year 646 of the courses were taken by 516 candidates and in 2012 there were 290 entries by 237 pupils.

Across the country, 376,000 Btecs are taken, with Cumbria's Sedburgh School, York's Faculty of Queen Ethelburga, Lincolnshire's Stamford School and Brighton College among those that offer the courses. 

Retiring head teacher of St Paul's Girls' School in west London Clarissa Farr said a new 'entrepreneurshipcol' scheme will allow sixth-formers to solve problems alongside businesses and explore innovation. 

'While the traditional idea of an undergraduate degree as an opportunity to broaden the mind and deepen understanding of a specific discipline still appeals in some quarters, the increased cost of university and the burden of debt means that students are applying greater critical scrutiny to the quality of higher education,' she said.

The traditional university route is being ditched by some pupils who don't believe it's good value for money, as employers raise concern that graduates aren't prepared for the workplace
The traditional university route is being ditched by some pupils who don't believe it's good value for money, as employers raise concern that graduates aren't prepared for the workplace

The traditional university route is being ditched by some pupils who don't believe it's good value for money, as employers raise concern that graduates aren't prepared for the workplace

'Their acceptance of its intrinsic value is no longer a given. With large organisations like Google being much more direct about the skills they want — and will pay for — skills such as teamwork, creativity and problem solving ability, the status of a degree may soon become more fragile.'

Btecs are accepted by many Russell Group universities as admissions criteria for certain degrees. 

And admissions body Ucas values the highest grade of Btec as the equivalent of three A* grades at A level.

Stamford School head Nick Gallop said Btecs are good alternative to the 'narrow focus' of new A levels.

Brighton College's Richard Cairns said his school's sports science Btec was for pupils wanting to pursue degrees and represent their country. 

He said the school would probably offer T levels, which give more intense training for high-quality qualifications, when they are introduced by the government.

'University used to be something to aspire to,' he said. 'Any student really can go to university, the qualifications required are so much lower. 

'It's no longer seen as a great mark of academic success. Certain pupils are thinking it's not such a great deal any longer, particularly with the fees.'

 

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