Education insights: Support for student mental health, career investment in Scotland, and is this the end of BTECs?

This week saw the arrival of the long-awaited summer holidays, but news and updates in the education landscape have not taken a break. This week’s Education insights explores calls to make mental health a priority in the curriculum, the removal of BTECs, the social gap in private schools and a £10 million investment in career support in Scotland.

 Mental health: can it be embedded into the curriculum?

The Association of Colleges published a key set of research findings in January around student mental health, showing that 94% of colleges in England have had a student attempt suicide in the past year. While further education colleges have been introducing more support to protect student wellbeing and mental health, including signing up to the AoC mental health charter, many argue more needs to be done. Liz Bromley, Chief Executive of NCG, says that mental health and fitness need to be identified as core skills and colleges need to be able to provide courses to manage wellbeing. When teaming up with Sport England to develop Studio You, a brand new PE teaching resource for young girls, we saw first-hand how prominent the link between exercise and wellbeing is for young people.

 Educators in England voice concerns over plans to scrap BTECs

The Department for Education has confirmed plans to introduce new technical qualifications in England and scrap most BTECs, to simplify and streamline the system. Education leaders however have warned that getting rid of BTECs is “reckless” and will harm the prospects of poorer students. Twelve organisations have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urging him not to remove BTEC qualifications. They estimate that at least 30% of 16–18-year-olds studying for a Level 3 qualification in England are doing vocational qualifications such as BTECs, which is around 259,291 young people. We look forward to seeing how the education secretary addresses these concerns.

Richer parents pressure teachers on exam grades

Research from the Sutton Trust has found that parents of pupils in private schools, or living in affluent areas of England, were the most likely to put pressure on teachers over exam grades. The findings show that almost a quarter of private school teachers had been contacted by parents over A-level and GCSE grades, twice as many as in schools in deprived areas. It is unfortunate to see that there is a social gap between state schools, with 17% of teachers in better-off areas facing pressure from parents, compared with 11% in disadvantaged areas.

 £10 million school investment to support “school coordinator role” in Scotland

The Scottish government is boosting its investment in careers support in schools, providing every Scottish secondary school with a “school coordinator” who will be responsible for forging links with employers. The role has been made a top priority by the government in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the labour market. School coordinators will create increased opportunities for work-based learning for pupils, as well as supporting their access to education, work and training. The Hopscotch team really enjoy developing virtual work experience resources with organisations such as the London Enterprise Advisory Network, as well as other programmes that support employability skills.

 Covid mental health: How writing stories helps students

Elizabeth Draper, a trustee of the English Association, set up a Literature and Action Project, which saw 16 to 18-year-olds participate from colleges across England during the pandemic. A platform was created where young people were invited to share their stories through articles, diary entries, films, drawings and poems. There is now a publication written, illustrated and edited by young people who built up their self-confidence during the process. We love to see such an alternative approach used to allow students to consider their mental health in a creative format.

About the author

Azza Abdulla

Azza has a background in digital marketing and has experience working across the charity and Higher Education sectors. She is passionate about inclusive learning and breaking down barriers to education. At Hopscotch, she works on LifeSkills created with Barclays, Shell's STEM competition and more.

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