Dear Damian Hinds,
You must be grateful the majority of us either have defective memories or are too young to know that what you’re talking about has been discussed before. I see you’re consulting on plans to withdraw funding for BTecs. Michael Rosen, author and political columnist writes in The Guardian.
Let me declare an interest: some years ago, I worked with a drama group attached to a theatre. The students, aged 16 to 18, were doing drama BTec – a two-year course that mixed practical and theoretical work. I think some, maybe most, would have struggled with A-levels, but they all had sufficient talent with words and performance to enable them to benefit from those two years. In fact, they did more: they did what it takes to get a production together and go on the road to the Edinburgh festival for a couple of weeks. It was challenging, involved a wide range of social and intellectual skills, and established a knowledge base in what it takes to put on a show.
At the time, a few higher education colleges would have taken some of them. For others, it was the end of education, but in my experience such students use these courses throughout their lives in, say, bringing up children, youth work, working in the pre-school field, or organising the kinds of social events around our workplaces that help us get through life.
By saying this, I’m committing a heresy. The present orthodoxy sees education in units that have to prove themselves in terms of post-education financial worth. Last November your former colleague, Sam Gyimah, was talking about university degrees in terms of value for money – not the value the courses provided students as they studied, but the salaries they could command afterwards.
In a stroke, Gyimah was fulfilling the prophesies of 1960s student radicals who talked of further and higher education colleges as factories turning out saleable units to slot into an unequal system. I sense that your intention to review BTecs comes from the same mindset.
The article I read reported ominously that “ministers are said to be concerned about qualifications that ‘do not provide the same high-quality education’ as A-levels and new T-levels, their technical equivalent”. That sounds as if pre-review judgments are being made and the knives are being sharpened.
We all know that education for this age group will never be fair and just if we don’t fund academic, technological and vocational courses well and equally, whilst giving all students pathways between these three categories and ladders upwards through life. Isn’t it your job to get it right for all our young people?
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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