WOKING MP Jonathan Lord praised the achievements of Woking College at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons last week.

Mr Lord referred to the college’s success in securing government funding towards a new £3 million teaching block before pressing Boris Johnson on the need to maintain the BTEC qualification and protect student choice.

Presenting his question, Mr Lord said:  “I celebrate the recent successes of Woking College, my local sixth-form college, and I welcome the recent Government investment for a new teaching block which will allow it to expand.

“Many colleges and students find BTECs a really valuable qualification and course, enabling progress into higher education and skilled employment.

“Does the Prime Minister agree with me that we should protect student choice and keep BTECs as an option for students?”

The Prime Minister responded: “We will continue to fund some BTECs where there is a clear need for them, but I must stress to him that we’ve got to close the gap between the things that people study and the needs of business and employers.”

BTECs are vocational qualifications taken after GCSEs, often work-based, developing skills in a range of areas, but there are Government plans to scrap them in favour of a new T-Level qualification.

Brett Freeman, principal of Woking College, said: “BTECs are studied by thousands of students in local sixth-form colleges as they provide a really effective route to both university and employment, especially for those students who don’t want to follow a more traditional A-Level curriculum, or for whom it is not suitable at 16.

“Students leave Woking College every year and go to Russell Group universities having studied BTECs,” Mr Freeman added. “BTECs have given students a chance to progress and mature academically over the two years of these qualifications. This has opened doors and given students a wider set of choices then they would have had if this route was not available.”

The Russell Group’s 24 members are, says its website, “world-class, research-intensive universities”. 

Mr Freeman continued: “It is important that a broad range of high quality BTECs remain. Closing down the qualification that sits between the A and T-Level could lead to more students dropping out of education and reduce progress to higher education, especially for those who want to continue with a more academic and broad educational programme and not specialise in one area at 16.”

The BTEC debate has aroused strong feelings in education, and it is one Mr Lord is happy to embrace.

He said: “I was delighted to get a cheer at the end of the question, although a lot of it came from the opposition benches! There are, though, Conservatives MPs with me on this which shows that it is a cross-party issue.

“I’ll be pursuing it with the Secretary of State for Education and hope to do that as soon as possible.”