BTec results: CBI Wales urges more vocational focus

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education correspondent

media captionTasnim Bhuiyan says his BTec course had "constant exams"

Parents and teachers should put a greater focus on vocational qualifications, employers' body CBI Wales has said.

Its director Ian Price warned against "devaluing" practical routes which may often lead to better careers.

Some BTec students will get their final grades on Wednesday, ahead of A-level results.

Cardiff and Vale College is hosting a celebration of BTec results for the first time to show their importance.

BTecs can be studied instead of or alongside A-levels and they have a more practical focus.

Traditionally they have been assessed through assignments but in recent years there has been a greater focus on exams too.

They are like constant exams and they're pretty big. It's not an easy option
Tasnim Bhuiyan
BTec student from Cardiff

Tasnim Bhuiyan from Cardiff is one of thousands of students in Wales getting their final results today.

He moved to Cardiff from Italy at 16 and had to study an English course before he could progress further.

Rather than spend more time doing GCSEs and A-levels, Tasnim moved on to a BTec course in computing with cyber-security.

It is equivalent to three A-levels and now, at 21, he has been offered a place at the University of South Wales to study for a BSc in computer security.

He said: "People now have got different choices and different opportunities. In total we had five exams in two years plus all the assignments you have," he said.

"They are like constant exams and they're pretty big. It's not an easy option".

The university admission service Ucas said 10% of applicants in 2018 went to university with BTecs, while another 7% had a combination of A-levels and BTecs.

UK university entry by qualification type. Numbers of 18-year-olds.  .

What are BTecs?

  • The acronym BTec comes from the Business and Technology Education Council, which is the qualification provider, now owned by Pearson
  • There are over 2,000 BTec qualifications across 16 sectors, from business and sport to construction and travel and tourism
  • In Wales, early estimates show 11,600 students finished BTec courses - with sport and health and social care the most popular subject areas, followed by IT and computing
  • They are designed for young people interested in a particular sector or industry but who are not yet sure what job they'd like to do
  • Students can take them alongside A-levels or GCSEs or as part of other programmes, such as an apprenticeship, or as a standalone course.
  • There has been a continued increase in acceptance rates for university applicants with BTec-only qualifications and those taking a mix of BTec and A-level exams. There has been a steady rise in numbers of BTec students going to university, although there was a slight decrease in 2018

Sources: Ucas and Pearson

Mr Price said vocational qualifications were not well understood within the education system.

"There are other routes to employment other than through the university and A-level route.

"I'd like to see schools and teachers focus more on some of the vocational qualifications out there."

He said more effort should be devoted to explaining to parents what vocational qualifications can offer.

"There's enormous amounts of pressure at the school gates quite often when parents are speaking to each other about what courses their children are taking.

"People need to realise that if they're taking a vocational course, quite often they are going to end up in a better career than maybe someone going to university."

Cardiff and Vale College principal Kay Martin said it had delivered BTec qualifications for many years and had seen their "positive impact".

She added: "We truly believe in the importance of both academic and vocational routes, and BTecs are an excellent example of this."

Welsh Government data from 2015 suggested that around half of GCSE students then went on to study A-levels, while most of the rest took up vocational qualifications, apprenticeships or training.

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