A new law has recently been passed in the House of Lords, which is likely to have a positive impact on educational choice in Northumberland and indeed, around the country.
The legislation was put forward by Lord Baker, former conservative education Minister. It will force schools to give colleges, apprenticeship providers and other education establishments full access to their students, to promote the different educational routes on offer at age 14, 15 and 16.
Most children this age will assume that going to school and taking the traditional GCSE/A-Level route is the only choice available to them. However, there are actually a variety of options open at this crucial stage and the new legislation will ensure young people get to hear about them.
Lord Baker has been campaigning for better technical and vocational education over many years. He is the architect of the University Technical College programme and more recently, the founder of the Career Colleges Trust.
As head of an FE College which has recently established a Career College – which offers provision for 14-18 year olds – I am welcoming this new amendment with open arms. I am hopeful that it will open up more choice for Northumberland’s 14-16 year olds – offering options beyond the traditional academic school route, as is common in most other countries.
Every young person is an individual, with different interests, skills and abilities. As far as education goes, there is no ‘one size fits all’. The more options we can provide, the more chance we have of ensuring every young person is given the opportunity to succeed and fulfil their potential.
Schools are understandably protective of their good students, but what happens if a young person would be better suited and indeed happier in a different educational environment? Surely it is morally right to advise this student in a completely unbiased manner? The answer is yes, but sadly due to the many financial challenges schools are facing, losing students is not something they are prepared to do under any circumstances.
Northumberland College launched its first Career College in September last year, and we are planning for our first intake of 14 year olds in the Autumn. The Career College has four specialist areas, Land-Based Rural tourism and Hospitality and Catering at Kirkley Hall campus and Construction and Engineering at Ashington campus.
The premise of a Career College is that it’s employer-led. Our students benefit not only from industry standard facilities, but they also have access to a number employer-led projects, working directly with businesses. This prepares young people for work in a way that a traditional school can’t.
Our 14-16 year olds will study for their GCSEs in core subjects, whilst getting experience of industry and learning skills that are needed and endorsed by our employer partners. By the time they reach 16, these students will be well placed and ahead of the field when it comes to taking their next step.
A Career College route is an excellent opportunity for many young people – perhaps those who are prefer a more practical style of learning and are focused on quick career progression.
Schools really must provide independent and impartial Information and Guidance (IAG), ensuring they are working in the best interests of each student. I am confident that The Baker Amendment will help to make sure that this happens – and hopefully more young people will be able to choose an alternative educational pathway that much better suits their interests and ambitions.
Marcus Clinton, Principal and CEO of Northumberland College