February 2012

Dear Parents

There has been a lot in the press recently about the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, deciding that most vocational courses are no longer equivalent to GCSEs.

I thought it would be helpful if I explained this School's position.

There is clearly a difference between GCSEs and vocational courses. We all know there is a difference between the qualifications needed to be a lawyer and to be a plumber. But you would not want even the best qualified lawyer to plumb-in your new bathroom !

We run BTEC vocational courses in Horse Care, Countryside Management and Animal Care. We run one level of course in Years 10 and 11 and a higher level course in the Sixth Form.

- One pupil recently finished the 14-16 Countryside Management course and went on to a specialised Fish Farming course which should guarantee him a job.
- Last Summer another pupil finished the Sixth Form Horse Care course with a Distinction on the Friday and started work the following Monday as an Apprentice Stable Manager and Riding Instructor.
- A pupil who did Countryside Management moved on to study Forestry at an Agricultural College and is now employed by BT using forestry high level rope skills to go up telegraph poles.
- Another pupil is taking the Animal Care course in the hope that it, alongside his Science and Maths A levels, will give him an edge in applying to study to be a Vet.

We offer BTEC courses in Business Studies in Key Stage 4 and the Sixth Form. However we also run Business Studies GCSE and A level. The courses are different and suit different pupils.

We run our BTEC courses for the benefit that they can give to some pupils, and not to boost our position in the GCSE and A level League Tables. When, out of interest, we removed all the BTEC results from last Summer's GCSE figures it made almost no statistical difference.

Nobody would claim that all GCSE courses are the same.

Maths is different to French and I am sure there are parents reading this letter who passed Maths and failed French or vice versa. Music needs skills which are very different from those needed in Product Design, Food Technology or Geography but each is useful to some pupils.

I believe this School should to run a variety of courses which are helpful to as many of our pupils as possible.

We will continue to run these courses, probably for a small number of pupils - as now - but in the knowledge that they will be useful and enriching for the pupils that take them.

If you have any questions about this then please do send them to me.

With my best wishes

Paul D Spencer Ellis