• Girls forging ahead in practical learning

    New data published by Pearson shows that girls studying BTECs at Level 2 outperform boys across most subjects, including many seen as ‘boys’ subjects’.

    A greater percentage of girls achieved the top marks compared to boys in subjects including business, construction and engineering.

    The data show that whilst boys continue to make up the majority of learners in these subjects, with boys representing 58% of BTEC Business learners at Level 2 and 56% of BTEC Business learners at Level 3, girls who take the courses outperform their male peers. In construction, boys represent 96% of learners at Level 2, and 94% of learners in engineering.

    On overall performance at Level 2, the data show:

    • In Business & Services 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 17% of boys.
    • In Construction and the Built Environment 18% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 7% of boys.
    • In Engineering 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 16%of boys.

    The pattern is replicated at Level 3 (A level equivalent), where:

    • 48% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Business achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) as opposed to37% of male learners.
    • 39% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Engineering achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) as opposed to 29% of male learners.
    • 48% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Construction achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) compared to 34% of male learners.

    Yet the data also reveal that, despite their success, not all girls are persuaded of the case for taking more vocational routes. Girls make up only 6% of all students studying Engineering at Level 2, with percentages falling even lower at Level 3 to 4%. Just 9% of Level 3 learners in Construction and the Built Environment were girls.

    These statistics are published on the same day as Pearson announces engineering student Megan Turner as the Outstanding BTEC Science and Engineering Student and Overall BTEC Student of the Year.Megan, who is expected to be awarded a DDD in her BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering, is also set to go on to study engineering at Aston University. As part of her course she has been working with Loughborough University on a pioneering engineering project which could have commercial applications. Megan has also worked to develop links with local primary schools and encourage more girls to take up engineering. Megan will receive her award alongside other winners at a ceremony in London today, hosted by The Voice star Reggie Yates.

    Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said:

    “I hope these figures will give more girls the confidence to see careers in business, construction and engineering as within their reach. A learner’s gender should never influence the subjects they study nor be treated as an indicator as to how well they will perform.

    “Megan is a fantastic engineering student from Loughborough who is using the experience gained studying her Level 3 BTEC to go on to university. She should be congratulated on her many achievements so far and I hope she will inspire more girls to study engineering.”

    Pearson was the first awarding body to publish the achievements of students in schools and colleges studying a major vocational qualification. We are committed to the annual publication of these statistics. This is the second annual data release.

    Since BTEC students receive their grades on a rolling basis throughout the academic year, today’s data relate to calendar year results gained at level 2 and level 3 from 1 June 2011 to 31 May 2012.

    Alongside the certification data, Pearson has also published completion rates for BTEC, showing what percentage of students successfully complete their BTEC qualifications. Unlike A levels and GCSEs, BTECs are completed when students are ready, so a completion rate is calculated in place of a pass rate. Candidates who are withdrawn before any assessment are not included in these statistics. Completion rates are calculated over an academic year (1 September– 31 August), rather than over a twelve-month period as with the certification statistics. As a BTEC typically takes two years to complete, the rate is calculated through collecting registration data and recording how many pupils have completed their courses to date.

    Research by London Economics in 2010 found that students who have a BTEC Level 2 qualification and five good GCSEs increase their lifetime earning potential by 5.9% compared to those who have just five or more GCSEs.

    In 2009/10 (the last year for which data is available), 92,000 BTEC students applied to Higher Education Institutions, up from around 71,000 in 07/08. They successfully started courses in a variety of subjects including Maths, Engineering and Science. 6.4% of students were at Russell Group or 1994 universities.

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  • BTEC Awards highlight achievements of one million learners

    Megan Turner, a 17-year-old engineering student from Loughborough, has won the Overall Outstanding BTEC Student of the Year at the National BTEC Awards.

    The awards ceremony will take place this afternoon (Thursday 5th July) in London and will be hosted by Reggie Yates co-host of the BBC’s The Voice.

    The 2nd annual National BTEC Awards provide a platform for students, teachers, schools and colleges to celebrate their outstanding achievements in vocational learning.

    Nearly one million students around the country are studying BTEC qualifications this year. Pearson, the parent company of Edexcel, the awarding body for BTECs, received over 500 nominations across the 15 award categories for this year’s awards.

    The winners announced today include:

    Outstanding BTEC Student of the Year: Megan Turner, Loughborough College. Megan is expected to be awarded a D*D*D* in her BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering. The judges were impressed that Megan had balanced her studies with developing links with local primary schools, encouraging more girls into engineering. As part of her BTEC, Megan has also begun working with Loughborough University on a pioneering engineering project which could have commercial applications in the future. On applying to Aston University to study a Design Engineering degree the admissions tutor recommended Megan enter directly on to their Masters programme due to the industrial experience her BTEC qualification had already provided.

    Anne Markland, who teaches Performing Arts at Preston College is the Outstanding BTEC Teacher of the Year. Judges praised Anne’s outstanding commitment to her students who constantly exceed their expected grades. In her own time she also arranges numerous school trips abroad and external shows for her students. Anne has also worked tirelessly to develop links with local special schools, developing projects involving both able bodied students and those with physical disabilities. She also assists her students through the UCAS application system, with many going on to pursue their passion for Performing Arts at university.

    Outstanding BTEC School/College of the Year: Ashton 6th Form College. Ashton’s Children Care Learning and Development Department currently boasts a 100% pass rate across all programmes and an 84% progression rate to Higher Education. Judges felt these fantastic progression rates were also partly the result of the numerous university visits, preparation sessions and inspirational talks from industry leaders, organised for the students.

    Outstanding BTEC Adult Learner: Tawa Atanda, City College Coventry. Tawa, desperate to find fashionable clothes post pregnancy, was inspired to pursue a fashion/textile course to gain skills and experience to set up her own fashion label. Whilst studying at college she has already received a total of 14 Distinctions and 2 merit grades on the BTEC Extended Diploma in Fashion and is expected to gain a DDD on her final award. She has used her final major project to produce a women’s wear collection, using traditional printed fabric from Nigeria targeted at 18-25 year olds balancing Western and African styles. She is currently working with the Sandwell Woman’s Enterprise Agency to set up her own fashion business.

    The Awards will be hosted by Radio 1 DJ and The Voice host Reggie Yates, at The Royal Horticultural Halls in London and will be attended by nominated students, teachers, and leaders in education. David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science will also speak at the ceremony.

    David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:

    “These awards rightly celebrate the practical skills and knowledge which will help our economy grow and remain competitive with the rest of the world.

    “I congratulate all of this year’s award winners who have shown tremendous dedication in their work and who can all be very proud of what they have achieved.”

    Rod Bristow, President, Pearson UK said,

    “I am delighted the National BTEC Awards are now in their second year and going from strength to strength. In a modern economy with complex and rapidly shifting skills needs, we need practitioners who understand the theory, and academics who can put things into practice. BTEC aims to give students access to that kind of rounded education.

    “More and more universities and employers are telling us that they value that rounded approach. Every year, thousands of BTEC students go on to great universities and fantastic jobs that really value their skills. They achieve great things in a wide variety of industries vital to the economy, ranging from business and engineering to ICT and healthcare.

    “It is vital to support and celebrate the hard work and achievements of outstanding BTEC students and their teachers. All the judges were impressed by the quality and number of nominations we received.”

    Awards host, Radio One DJ Reggie Yates said,

    “I’m really excited to be part of this year’s National BTEC Awards. To succeed in my industry and any other you need to set yourself high ambitions and work hard to hone the right skills and knowledge. You need to be able to deliver on the day, not just know the theory.

    “All the winners today have shown real passion and commitment to achieving their goals and deserve to be put on a pedestal as an inspiration to others.”

    About the awards

    The full list of winners of the National BTEC Awards will be formally announced at the ceremony on 5th July 2012, but please contact Sam Cunningham for more information if you wish to speak to specific winners.

    The full list of categories is as follows:

    Sector Awards

    Outstanding BTEC Business and Enterprise Student
    Outstanding BTEC IT Student
    Outstanding BTEC Media Student
    Outstanding BTEC Science and Engineering Student
    Outstanding BTEC Creative Art & Design Student
    Outstanding BTEC Child & Social Care Student
    Outstanding BTEC Sport Student
    Outstanding BTEC Performing Arts Student
    Outstanding BTEC Beauty and Hospitality Student

    Main Awards

    Outstanding BTEC Student of the Year
    Outstanding BTEC Teacher / Tutor of the Year
    Outstanding BTEC School / College of the Year
    Outstanding BTEC Adult Learner of the Year
    Outstanding BTEC Apprentice of the Year (16-18 )
    Outstanding Adult BTEC Apprentice of the Year (19+)
    Most Innovative BTEC Apprenticeship Provider of the Year

    The judging panel for the Awards included:

    Sandra Kelly - Whitbread
    Euthan Newman - BTEC Tutor, South Thames College
    Nick Linford - Editor, FE Week
    Stephen Exley – Reporter, TES
    Maryam Momla – Current Apprentice
    Rod Bristow - President, Pearson UK
    Rod Smith - MD Vocational, Pearson
    Trevor Luker - MD WBL, Pearson (Apprentice awards only)

    Find out more about the National BTEC Awards

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  • Our response to Education Select Committee report on exams

    An Education Select Committee report on the examination system has rejected moves to a single national exam board or to single boards for each subject.

    The Committee suggests that there should be a single national syllabus for each subject which would be accredited by the regulator, Ofqual, with every exam board able to set question papers against that syllabus.

    Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK said:

    “This is a thoughtful and rounded report, which tackles a number of complex issues in a sensitive and balanced way.

    “It is vital that we address the public perception that competition between awarding organisations leads to downward pressure on standards. Pearson is committed to being a partner in making the changes necessary to enable this. Nothing is more important than ensuring that the effort of pupils is rewarded with qualifications which everyone is confident represent the very best in educational standards, at home and abroad.

    “Awarding organisations already work closely with higher education, learned societies and employers to ensure that specifications support progression. However, the “National Syllabus” approach could deepen this and is worthy of further discussion. We welcome the intention to ensure that incentives to innovation in assessment, exam administration and support for schools remain strong, since we believe there is much scope to build on the progress of the last decade in this area.

    “A high quality and challenging curriculum needs to be accompanied by engaging and effective resources to bring them to life. Our endorsement procedures ensure we reward books which encourage broad and stretching teaching and learning. Pearson’s internal firewalls ensure that employees who have a responsibility for publishing have no knowledge of what will be on a given year’s exam paper. As the Report notes, Pearson is also currently considering approaches to contain the authoring activities of our senior examiners. We are in discussion with the regulator on this matter, and we will work with them to ensure public confidence in the system, and in Pearson, is assured. We note, too, the Committee’s recommendation on the treatment of other publishers’ resources on our website, and will reflect this.

    “We agree with the Committee that change cannot be pursued in isolation to reforms of the accountability system, which needs revision to reward schools for achieving high expectations for all learners, and offering a rounded education.”

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  • Our response to the proposals on O-Levels

    Following reports that Michael Gove wants to replace GCSEs with O-level style exams, we had this to say.

    A Pearson spokesperson said:

    “We look forward to seeing further details of the proposals discussed by the Secretary of State today.

    “We have repeatedly stated our commitment to working with Government to build a resilient examinations system which upholds high standards and has the confidence of the public. This is in the best interests of the hundreds of thousands of pupils who sit examinations in the UK each year.

    “It is right that the education system is challenged to reach for the standards achieved by our peers globally. We can and should be ambitious for all children and we support a system which delivers that.

    “We would have serious reservations about any approach which sets lower expectations for some at the age of 14. A new approach needs careful consideration to ensure it encourages high aspirations and expectations across the board, and doesn’t lower our ambitions for some students.”

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  • UK needs more high-level skills to compete for growth, says CBI and Pearson survey

    In a CBI/Pearson survey of 542 companies employing around 1.6 million people, 61% say school and college leavers don’t have enough self-management skills.

    The number of employers who are dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ basic skills remains stuck at around a third – the same as a decade ago(1) – with 42% reporting that they have had to provide remedial training for school and college leavers.

    The persistence of this finding suggests that there are structural issues within our schools that need to be addressed if we are to ensure every young person gets a good start in life. The CBI has recently launched a major project designed to address this issue.

    The survey also finds that as the UK competes ever more for business and talent in global markets, employers are looking to up-skill their workforces. Over the next three to five years, employers expect to need more people with leadership and management skills (a balance of +67%) and other higher skills (+61%), whereas for lower-skilled workers, they expect to slightly cut numbers (-3%).

    While half of employers (a balance of +51%) are confident that they will fill their low-skilled vacancies, they are not confident of meeting their need for higher-skilled employees (-15%).

    John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

    “The UK’s growth will depend on developing a wider and deeper pool of skills so that our economy can prosper in the face of fierce international competition for business.

    “There is nothing more important to the future economic success of our country, and the lives of young people, than education.

    “The foundations for the development of higher-level skills and the essentials for working life, that employers require, are laid at school.

    “With the right start at school our young people can go on to have successful and fulfilling careers and have a strong base from which to learn more at college, university, or in the workplace.

    “But levels of educational attainment are rising fast in many leading and emerging economies, so in the UK we must ensure that our education and skills system can continue to compete at the cutting edge.”

    Rod Bristow, UK President of Pearson said:

    “The connection between education and the world of work is critically important. Employers and all of us working in education have a big task to address that connection properly. Despite improvements in the past decade, employers want to see an even sharper focus on literacy and numeracy, beginning at primary school. Literacy and numeracy are the basic building blocks that help young people learn other subjects, get on in life and find rewarding work.

    “But it’s not just about literacy and numeracy. Even the best-performing nations say the number one issue in education is to better equip school leavers with the broader skills needed for working life, and we are no exception. Employers still find that some young people lack the initiative, problem-solving and communication skills to succeed at work.”

    “But this survey should fuel optimism that the best and brightest firms are continuing to invest in education, work with schools and colleges and maintain their own investment in training.”

    Importance of school performance underlined by more businesses building links with schools

    Employers recognise that they have an important role to play helping students and schools understand what skills are needed for working life. More than a third have increased their engagement with schools in the past year (+39%), while just 7% have reduced it, giving a balance of +32%.

    • 57% have links with secondary schools
    • 56% with further education colleges
    • But only 20% with primary schools

    One of the most important roles which half of all employers already carry out is providing careers advice (51%), but it’s clear that more work needs to be done in this area, with 68% saying that the general quality of advice is still not good enough. More than 60% of respondents say they would like to play a greater role in delivering careers advice.

    In other areas, more than two thirds of employers (70%) provide work experience to students and around a third of employees (29%) act as governors. The survey found that some of the barriers to stepping up business involvement include insufficient guidance and support on how to make work experience placements worthwhile (26%), and onerous health and safety requirements (22%).

    When asked which areas of education they think primary schools should focus on, 61% of employers said numeracy, 58% writing, 45% reading, and 42% said communication skills. For secondary schools, employers say the main focus should be on developing broader skills for working life:

    • Employability skills – 71%
    • Literacy – 50%
    • Numeracy - 45%

    But, the survey finds that no one current qualification addresses the combination of literacy, numeracy and employability requirements effectively. While employers think that for numeracy, GCSE maths is the best qualification, they say that vocational qualifications best equip young people with the broader employability skills.

    Big growth in employer interest in ‘learn-while-you-earn’ approach

    One in five jobs (20%) requires graduate-level skills, particularly in professional services (70%). But most employers (63%) expect increases in tuition fees to change the market for graduate-level skills, with 30% expecting to receive fewer graduate applications in the future. As a result, more than a third of firms (38%) expect to expand their recruitment of school leavers and / or apprentices with A-levels to provide an alternative to graduate-level training. Among the largest employers, with more than 5,000 staff, this figure rises to 68%.

    John Cridland said:

    “With extra pressure on student budgets from changes to tuition fees, more employers are stepping in to offer a range of innovative ‘learn while you earn’ routes to higher-level skills.”

    Employers have increased apprenticeship places and maintained their spending on training

    Since the start of the Education & Skills survey five years ago, the number of businesses involved in apprenticeships has grown rapidly from 48% to 63% this year. More than half of employers (58%) say that they intend to expand their current apprenticeship programmes or plan to start providing apprenticeship places in the next three years. This is particularly encouraging in view of the end of government funding for programme-led apprenticeships and the need for all apprentices in the future to be sponsored by an employer.

    Small and medium-sized companies are still a relatively untapped market for apprenticeships. While 89% of organisations with over 5,000 staff are providing apprenticeships in 2012, this figure falls to 22% for firms with under 50 employees.

    In terms of action required to get more employers involved in apprenticeships, respondents highlighted the following:

    • Qualification programmes that are more relevant to business needs – 46%
    • Government support for firms to train more apprentices than they need – 37%
    • Greater flexibility for employers to design bespoke frameworks – 36%
    • More suitably qualified and motivated young people applying – 34%
    • Reductions in bureaucracy – 28%, rising to 57% for larger firms

    In November, the Government announced measures to reduce the amount of red tape around apprenticeships, but so far only 6% of employers say they have experienced a change.

    In the face of challenging economic conditions, the vast majority of employers (81%) plan to maintain or increase their spending on training over the coming year, but there are major differences between sectors. A balance of +17% of manufacturers say they are planning to increase spending, while -36% of public sector employers plan reductions. Two thirds of employers (67%) report that they intend to seek more cost effective ways of delivering training in the next year.

    John Cridland said:

    “Even in the difficult economic climate, business leaders recognise the importance of training and skills to their success and are investing now for the future.

    “It’s great news that apprenticeships are on the increase, but the system must be simplified to make it easier, especially for small and medium-sized firms to be involved. The Government has set out promising plans to cut red tape for apprenticeships, but we now we need to see urgent delivery on the ground.”

    Businesses need strong STEM skills to compete for growth

    Recruiting staff with strong science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) skills will help underpin the UK’ ability to compete and achieve growth in many major sectors like manufacturing, construction and engineering. People with STEM skills are recruited at every level from apprenticeship entry (43%), technicians (40%) and graduates (53%). But 42% of firms struggle to find the STEM talent they require.

    Businesses are well aware of the need to take steps to grow the talent pool of STEM skills, with 64% taking some action to encourage young people to pursue STEM subjects. 42% of organisations provide high-quality work placements, 39% engage with schools to encourage pupils to study STEM subjects and 35% provide STEM apprenticeships. More than two-thirds of employers (68%) think the Government can help future shortages by better promoting science and maths in schools, especially post-16.

    Languages will help open up new markets to UK companies

    Operating effectively in a global economy relies on the right language skills, but the UK has the worst language proficiency in Europe, according to the Education & Employer Taskforce. An overwhelming 72% of businesses say they value foreign language skills, most importantly for building relations with overseas contacts (39%). The major European languages continue to be the most in demand, but language skills geared towards doing business in China and the Middle East feature prominently:

    • German – 50%
    • French – 49%
    • Spanish – 37%
    • Mandarin – 25%
    • Polish 19%
    • Arabic – 19%

    John Cridland said:

    “Rebalancing our economy will mean tapping into high-growth markets in places like Asia and Latin America, so companies will need people with the relevant language skills to do business in these countries.”

    Notes on this story

    (1)- 35% are dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ literacy skills and 30% with their levels or numeracy. These figures are broadly unchanged from 2003 when CBI data showed that 34% were unhappy with the basic skills of school leavers.

    The CBI is the UK's leading business organisation, speaking for some 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce. With offices across the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world.

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