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Going back to its technology roots

Earlier this year, 75 college students were called to an open evening with their parents to discuss where they could continue their studies after hearing A-level courses were to be axed.

Following a curriculum review, North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) had decided to stop offering A-levels from this term and was anxious that teenagers part-way through two-year studies should be found alternative places.

Lubna Kazmi, Nescot's director of student services, said more than 60 students affected turned up along with people from local sixth form colleges and other institutions that run A-levels. There are five school sixth forms, two sixth form colleges and three FE colleges that run A-levels within 10 miles.

The college was surprised how easily most students transferred, even where it meant switching exam boards. She said: "We wanted to make it as painless as possible. "

Nescot's decision to focus on vocational qualifications followed the arrival of Sunaina Mann as principal in September last year.

Ms Kazmi does not see why the stronger focus on vocational learning should result in fewer students progressing to higher education.

"Vocational studies are appreciated at university, but students can choose to stay here and do HE with us," she said.

Ms Kazmi sees Nescot's move as in line with government policy and the Foster review. Last year just 120 out of more than 1,500 16 to 19- year-olds studied A or AS-levels. Ten out of 12 staff that taught A-levels were offered jobs elsewhere, while the other two are now taking higher education access courses. In some ways, the college, originally known as North East Surrey College of Technology, is going back to its roots.

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