MP hears concerns about the future of vocational qualifications

Jackie Doyle-Price MP took part in a special meeting at South Essex College last week to hear directly about the positive impact vocational courses such as BTECs and Applied General qualifications have had on students.

The meeting came after the government announced it is considering reducing the quantity of qualifications which will be funded.

The meeting was attended by students and senior leaders from the college including Principal and Chief Executive Angela O’Donoghue, as well Ngoc Cleeve from local employer Bodi Design, who recruits vocational course graduates direct from the college.

Approximately 2,700 students at South Essex College are currently studying on vocational courses which are focused on applied learning, the students work on real life projects set by industry.  These qualifications offer a real alternative to A-Levels, and are more  practical, hands on qualifications.

Vocational courses are equivalent to A-Levels and are taken by one million young people and adults across the UK who want academic qualifications as well as preparation for the workplace and employment. These qualifications provide students with the flexibility to either go directly into employment or go to University.  The government is considering withdrawing funding from August 2020 despite the fact that 90% of vocational course students are employed full-time after university graduation.

Angela O’ Donoghue, Principal and Chief Executive at South Essex College, said: “It is so important to allow students to have the mixture of practical/vocational and academic study to suit their individual learning needs. The meeting with Jackie Doyle-Price was a fantastic opportunity for some of our former and current students to put forward their views on the proposed withdrawal of vocational courses and tell us how these courses have positively impacted their lives after college”.

Speaking after the meeting, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, said: “I really enjoyed meeting the students from South Essex College.

“I am determined that we have good vocational options for all our young people so they can have real choice about how they acquire the skills and knowledge to equip them for the future. 

“Any reforms to vocational qualifications must strengthen and not diminish the choices available to young people. I thank South Essex College for giving me the opportunity to hear the direct experiences of each of these students.  I have always believed that the vocational route to study should be championed, cherished and respected.”

Ex-student Zoe Brown took part in the meeting. She studied a BTEC qualification at the college and is now a special educational needs teacher. She said: “If there had not been an option of a vocational course when I went to college I would have been put off as I have dyslexia and struggled with exams at schools. The traditional academic route felt too challenging and this type of qualification wouldn’t have worked with my learning needs”