A school where the pupils run their own farm claims government plans to downgrade land-based courses could signal the death-knell for farming being offered as a subject.
Brymore School in Cannington, Somerset, is outraged that from 2015 land-based BTECs would no longer count in any of the school league tables, while other subjects such as beauty and hospitality remained on the system.
The government announced towards the start of the year that it was ending recognition of more than 3,100 vocational qualifications in England’s school league tables.
It claimed that it would raise educational standards and make it clearer to students which qualifications had the best track record of leading to employment.
But the state-run boarding school, which has a 45ha farm, said downgrading land-based subjects would jeopardise their overall results and could push other schools into dropping farming courses altogether.
Brymore’s headmaster Mark Thomas has challenged the stance. In an online petition he said it was wrong that courses such as agriculture and horticulture were being removed from the list, but some beauty and hospitality courses remained.
“Schools as unique as Brymore, who specialise in land-based studies, are being forced to consider our options – or risk being labelled as ‘unsuccessful’,” he said.
“How can schools justify investment in school farms when these qualifications no longer count? The message is clear – land-based studies in schools are not valued.”
Mr Thomas said he found it difficult to understand the plan, given the government’s aim was to improve the employability of young people and many people were complaining about the standards and work ethic of school leavers today.
“I would argue that the values instilled in both agriculture, horticulture and other land-based subjects, such as hard work, resilience, responsibility, a lack of instant results and a need for long-term planning are precisely the skills employers want,” he said.
“I dispute the notion that what we teach at Brymore, where boys get up at 6.30am to take on farm duties, calculate the yields, run the business, tend the animals and sell their own produce, is ‘poor quality’. Our parents would disagree, too.”
Mr Thomas told Farmers Weekly that Brymore would continue to offer farming courses, as it was integral to the school’s ethos. “My concern is at schools where there is a small farm and only a few students studying agriculture. It will put pressure on those head teachers to drop it.”
Read the full wording of the online petition