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Btec pupils wait for their big day

Vocational qualifications come out the shadow of A-levels to receive deserved recognition

STUDENTS TAKING level 3 Btec qualifications have always celebrated results' day in the shadow of their A-level counterparts. But next week, for the first time, candidates in Wales will find out on their own day of glory if they have achieved a university place.

Fforwm, the body representing Wales's 25 further education institutions, is behind the organisation of Vocational Results Day 2007, which will be held next Thursday, one week before A-level results are due to be released.

Edexcel, the only exam body that awards Btecs, aims to provide a breakdown of results ahead of next Thursday in schools and colleges across Wales.

Gaining a level 3 in a Btec qualification can be equal to one, two or three A levels depending on whether it is a National Award, Certificate or Diploma and it attract points from Ucas, the university admissions body. However, fforwm has always claimed that the successes of Btec students are ignored as A-level results hog the limelight.

A spokesperson said: "Further education colleges in Wales have felt for many years that students who achieve outstanding results in their vocational qualifications do not get the public recognition they deserve."

A source close to fforwm said the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is expected to announce shortly a similar celebratory day for Btec students in England, following Wales's lead.

Wales is driving ahead towards more vocationally led and learning with the introduction of the Welsh Baccalaurate alongside GCSEs and A-levels and the 14-19 Learning Pathways initiative.

However, in a report last December that highlighted a lack of basic skills in the UK, Lord Leitch said vocational skills were still not being properly recognised or valued.

In Wales, some schools have shown resistance to greater collaboration with colleges in offering more vocationally led courses, mostly due to the current funding system, which gives schools more money for every pupil in the sixth form.

Peter McGowan, the former vocational skills champion for Wales, was also critical of a lack of understanding of work-led learning, qualifications and skills in Wales, which employers have desperately sought. He spoke of a need for greater promotion of vocational qualifications within schools and among small businesses.

Paul Croke, principal at Yale College in Wrexhan, said the announcement of a vocational qualifications results day was long overdue.

"The students and their tutors welcome this celebratory results day, which focuses exclusively on vocational pathways," he said. "The natural recognition that this accords is a reward for students and staff in highly specialised skills areas."

He claimed increasing numbers of students are taking a vocational route to university or employment. Last year's success and progression rates were the highest on record for the college, with 167 students achieving Btec National Diplomas, he said, but this year's figure would be much higher.

"Many students this year already have jobs lined up or have received offers from university," he added.

Leading article, page 16

Skills courses

Btec qualifications are taught in over 2,500 centres across the UK.

More than 400,000 students were registered for Btecs in 2005-06, a 70 per cent growth from 2002-03.

Schools have seen the steepest growth rate. In 2005-06, about 1,400 offered the full range of Btec courses, compared to just 200 in 2002-03.

National Qualifications Framework Btec Nationals attract Ucas higher education admissions points. A National Award is equivalent to one A-level, the National Certificate to two A-levels and the National Diploma to 3 A-levels

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