1 Jul '14

News Farm schools fear for their exam crop after new GCSE rules

Changes about which qualifications count in the league tables will hurt schools that favour practical subjectsBrymore academy in Somerset recently welcomed a new arrival by the name of Forrester Woolcombe. It's a bit unusual to join a school midway through term, but an exception was made for Forrester, who is a glossy-coated two-year-old roan shorthorn bull. While many schools have gardens or keep animals, Brymore has a full-scale, 110-acre working farm and a market garden. The school, an academy since September, prides itself on an impressive improvement in academic standards which saw 2013's year-11 pupils achieve the school's best GCSE results ever; but its curriculum extends far beyond the classroom. The boys here look after cows, sheep and pigs, grow vegetables and fruit for the school kitchens and farm shop and learn how to drive the school tractor.Virtually all the boys here (there are now 146 and but that will rise to 183 next year as it expands to accept pupils from 11) study for BTec national diplomas in either agriculture or horticulture and around 50% study both. Brymore's emphasis on practical, land-based skills makes this state boarding and day school unique but also means it is particularly affected by changes to the rules about which qualifications count as equivalent to GCSEs. BTecs in horticulture and agriculture, for example, will no longer be accredited. Continue reading...

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