It was announced last week that more than 5,000 courses were under review because they had either less than 100 students or no students at all studying them each year. The plans were announced by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, citing that it:
“will make it easier for students to choose the qualifications that are in demand and help them to land great jobs.”
This is part of the Government’s plan to overhaul vocational education that will pave the way for the upcoming T-Levels, allowing post-16 learners the choice of A-Levels, Apprenticeships or T-Levels.
It was also highlighted that there are often multiple qualifications at Level 3 or below in the same subject area. On the surface this seems a logical thing to do, removing duplicated qualifications.
Some 78 horticulture, landscaping, arboriculture, forestry and countryside courses have been listed with low numbers and another 24 that have had no learners registered at all.
So, what does this mean for landscaping and horticulture?
The worry is that some of these courses are the major bedrock of training for our industry, including Level 3 RHS theory and practical courses and some of the City & Guilds NPTC awards in machinery.
The concern is that if funding is removed, many training providers who access this funding to offset the costs of running courses for 16-18-year-olds, in particular, will stop offering them, making it more difficult for potential students leaving school to find courses related to our industry. But, if feels adults have not been considered, many of which are career changers and volunteers coming into the industry, which will push up the cost of education for them.
The other worry is that amongst these are specialist courses that may not be available elsewhere, like Lantra’s Dry Stone Walling Certificate. Our industry contains so many skills, just because there appears to be a low uptake in courses doesn’t mean they are no longer used or needed.
It’s encouraging that the Level 3 Landscape Construction course that BALI developed with Capel Manor college doesn’t appear to be in the list and neither are City & Guilds’ Technical qualifications.
Tom Bewick, the head of the trade association for examining bodies, the Federation of Awarding Bodies, stated his concerns:
“This is clearly a very top down review… vocational technical qualifications have been a great idea but they’re for other people’s children – and they certainly aren’t for the people that are in the senior levels within the DfE.”
With there being some 50,000 degree level courses, will the same ‘purging’ be applied to them? The Government is seeking views from the education sector and Awarding bodies have until March 27th to challenge the removal of funding if they believe the qualification should be retained.