(Photograph) - Students taking a more vocational route to university celebrated securing a place yesterday, one week earlier than their A-level counterparts, writes Nicola Porter. For the first time ever in Wales, bright candidates taking level 3 vocational qualifications attracting points from UCAS the university admissions body were able to celebrate their success out of the shadow of those taking the more publicised and recognised route.
The launch of Vocational Results Day, and the recognition of work-related qualifications, is seen as a major coup for Wales over England, mirroring much of what is happening in schools and colleges to fulfil the 14-19 learning pathways initiative.
The vocational-only day was instigated by fforwm, an organisation representing Wales's 25 further education colleges.
Sylvia Davies, from the organisation, said that the day was long overdue, especially as many students studying for vocational qualifications achieved them against the odds.
"I am delighted that colleges across Wales are leading the way by placing vocational qualifications on the map through this special day," she said. "It has always been felt that students who achieve outstanding results in their vocational qualifications do not get the recognition they deserve."
Figures released by fforwm to highlight the day prove that more students in Wales are turning to vocational qualifications, instead of taking the traditional A-level route, mainly because of the variety, practical experience and skills built into the programmes.
Examples of vocational qualifications that attract UCAS points are BTEC Nationals, including Awards, Certificates and Diplomas. In Wales, the percentage growth rate of the BTEC is just as evident in schools.
Overall in 20067, 4,790 certificates have been awarded for BTEC Nationals compared with 4,390 in 20056. An extra 102 were awarded in schools.
As TES Cymru went to press, 18-year-old Emyr Thomas from Pontarddulais, near Swansea, who achieved 12 GCSEs 10 of which were A or A* grades gained a distinction in a National Diploma in IT at Coleg Sir Gar.
He was offered a place at all four of his preferred universities and has decided to study computer science at Cardiff university.
"I hope to prove that taking a vocational course is not for under-achievers or for the non- academic but for those who want to learn more about a subject which they hope to do as a career," he said.
Rachel Hobson, 18, who was studying a BTEC National Diploma in construction at Yale College, Wrexham, was rewarded with a place to study architecture at Plymouth university.
Zimbabwean-born Elen Henry, 24, from Ebbw Vale, gained a double distinction in BTEC pharmacy at Coleg Gwents. She secured a place at Bath university, despite bringing up her younger siblings after both her parents died and speaking very little English.
John Griffiths, deputy education minister responsible for skills, said: "Wales and the UK as a whole desperately need highly-skilled young people to be able to compete in an increasingly global economy.
"Our future prosperity and quality of life are at stake. I am delighted we are recognising these achievements."