All change for Suffolk students

Teenagers all over Suffolk are in the process of making important decisions about their future options and changes in the curriculum are set to bring them a whole raft of new choices.

Karen Hindle

Teenagers all over Suffolk are in the process of making important decisions about their future options and changes in the curriculum are set to bring them a whole raft of new choices. In our second look at the 14-19 changes Karen Hindle finds out exactly what is on offer

Suffolk is in the middle of a learning revolution to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world. Between now and 2013, the education system for 14-19 year olds will be transformed to equip young people with the skills they need for life and work in a global marketplace.

The changes include the introduction of the new secondary curriculum and a wider range of learning “pathways” for young people, who will be continuing in education and training for longer when the participation age rises to 17 in 2013 and to 18 in 2015.


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The idea is to give all 14-19 year-olds the chance to choose different styles of learning in a setting that best suits their needs, interests and learning styles.

Suffolk County Council is leading this huge transformation by working closely with schools, colleges, universities, training providers and employers. Martin Slattery, 14-19, strategy manager, says: “This is a very big project but it's essential if we are to realise the potential of all our young people for them to be able to compete in the global world in future.

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“It's important to make sure that the qualifications young people achieve are trusted and widely understood within a system that is easy for them to navigate. That is why the Government is bringing together the wide range of qualifications into defined pathways.”

By 2013, young people under the age of 19 will have a choice of four main pathways for gaining the skills and qualifications they need to succeed. These include updated GSCEs/A-levels, new Diplomas, more Apprenticeships, and personalised Foundation Learning. There will also be a new Employment with Training route for post-16s in work.

The routes can be combined and the various qualifications are recognised by universities, trainers and employers, so students can tailor their choices to make the most of their talents and meet their needs.

Kath Ridealgh, county adviser for 14-19 education, said: “The choice is enormous and every learner will be helped to make the right choices at the ages of 14, 16 and 18 through high quality information, advice and guidance. Each student will be offered individual support, and there will also be financial help available for those who need it.”

Teachers, tutors and Youth and Connexions personal advisers will use their experience to help young people to make the right choices, but it is felt there is a need for parents and carers to understand the system so they can offer guidance as well.

Experts believe those fearful or against the changes feel this way because of a lack of knowledge and the idea that a different route is in some way inferior to academia, but they want to show two students can end up at the same university even though only one does GCSEs and A' Levels. More knowledge and understanding is needed, so here is a brief guide to the new routes and choices on the horizon for young people in Suffolk.

The Diploma is designed to give students valuable skills for life by combining hands-on experience with learning in the classroom, while keeping their future options open.

They have been developed jointly by schools, colleges, universities and employers to become one of the main education options leading students on to higher education, apprenticeships and employment.

Young people in Suffolk have a growing choice with the county receiving the go-ahead from the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) to offer 37 courses this year, with another 18-20 starting in 2011.

Fourteen diploma subjects will be available across the county from September 2010 and more are on the way. The courses combine practical and theoretical skills in occupational sectors such as construction, media, engineering, health, environment, information technology, beauty, sport, catering, business, and tourism.

The diploma is available at three levels: Foundation, Higher and Advanced, and can be linked with BTECs, GCSEs, and A Levels.

Traditional GCSEs and A Levels will continue in Suffolk but most have been updated and modernised to be more stretching and relevant for students taking the academic route.

GCSE English, maths and ICT are being revised to include functional skills from 2010 with most coursework being supervised at school. A Levels are being made more challenging and an A* grade is being introduced from 2010.

The new Foundation Learning Tier will help young people who need a bit more time to make progress and achieve their goals.

Some young people, including students with learning difficulties, need courses suited to their abilities and needs, so they can improve their skills through personalised learning programmes.

These will offer a series of stepping stones taking them through entry level and level 1 qualifications, and for some, to independent living or supported employment.

Students can gain credits for achieving functional skills in English, maths, ICT, and work-related learning, and work towards specific qualifications such as a Foundation Diploma, GCSE or BTEC awards.

Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly significant option for young people aged 16 +, who know what sort of work they want to do. The aim is for one in five young people to be able to take up an apprenticeship place by 2020.

Colleges and training providers already offer a wide range of apprenticeships that combine paid work with on-the-job training, qualifications and progression in a wide range of occupations.

Apprentices usually do a work-based qualification such as an NVQ, a key skills qualification or technical certificate such as a BTEC National Award, or a City and Guilds Progression Award.

Advanced Apprenticeships in subjects such as Information Technology (IT), engineering or purchasing and supply can also lead towards a foundation or honours degree.

Employment with Training is a step for young people who want to move into work at the earliest opportunity, but for whom leaving school for a job should not mean giving up education or training.

Suffolk's colleges have a leading role to play in helping young people to combine employment with time spent learning new skills, so they are prepared for the competitive challenges of modern life and work.

From 2013, young people who leave school to go into work will spend at least one day a week (or the equivalent amount of time) in part-time education, or accredited training. The aim is to prevent young people getting trapped in a dead-end job and to provide employers with a better trained workforce.

To find out more, a good place to start is the Future4me online local area 14-19 prospectus which has full details of learning and training opportunities in Suffolk for young people at www.future4me.org.uk

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Information used by the Department for Children, Schools and Families

By 2020, there will be five million fewer low skilled jobs in Britain than there are today

40% of all jobs in 2020 will require a graduate qualification

The top ten jobs that will be in demand in 2010 did not exist in 2004

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't exist.

Today's learner will have had 10-14 jobs …by the age of 38

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