A new route to studying Veterinary Science, Engineering and Environmental Science is now open to Sixth Form pupils at Sedbergh School, Cumbria, following the announcement of a joint venture with Newton Rigg College in Penrith this week. The move comes as leading Educational thinkers call for a hybrid vision of academic routes into Higher Education. 

Pupils choosing a new BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Agriculture, which is the equivalent to one A Level, will spend one day per week based at the North Cumbrian college, benefiting from facilities including a £2m dairy unit, two farms, a Roundhouse beef finishing unit at the York campus, Beef suckler herd of 30 Aberdeen Angus cows, three sheep flocks totalling 1000 ewes and land including crops, raised peat bogs and wildflower meadows. The diploma will give pupils 60 UCAS credits.

Sedbergh School Headmaster Andrew Fleck said: “The combination of practical and academic subjects provides an ideal platform for pupils to progress to Higher Education, in particular in vocational and practical courses. Pupils who combine A Levels with our new BTEC in Agriculture will have a wider range of skills, a broader knowledge base and a greater understanding of the Agriculture industries.

It’s an exciting project which we believe will open up new opportunities for pupils to succeed.  Combining this course with subjects such as Maths, Biology and Chemistry will immediately distinguish candidates who wish to apply to study Veterinary Science and this has been warmly welcomed by Admissions Tutors.”

Newton Rigg, which is part of Askham Bryan College, is one of the fastest growing land-based college in the country and the only one to have its own hill farm and moorland. It is also The National Centre for the Uplands, funded by the Prince’s Countryside Trust.

Wes Johnson, Campus Principal for Newton Rigg College, said: “The course explores all aspects of modern agriculture and ways of addressing the challenges of 21st Century farming. The Agriculture industry needs at least 86,000 new employees in the sector by 2021 according to LANTRA, Skills Sector Council and we work closely with industry to help shape the most appropriate courses as we strive to provide students with the best possible chance of progression in the future.”

Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive for UCAS, recently issued a statement summarising the increase in numbers of pupils entering University holding BTEC qualifications, an increase since 2008 of 80 per cent. The London Economics Report in May 2013 found that “More BTEC only graduates were found to be working as Managers, Senior Officials, or in Associate Professional roles, compared to A-Level only graduates.”

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson Education, said: “We already know that there is a strong correlation between having a vocational qualification such as a BTEC and being in employment. Our latest data shows that vocational qualifications, like A Levels, also give you the opportunity to excel at university.”

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