ACRE backs school campaign for land-based studies
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is calling on communities nationwide to back a campaign to secure the future of land-based studies in schools.

The Government is planning to drop BTECs in land studies, including horticulture and agriculture, from school league tables in 2015.

And teachers say they will be forced to axe the subject from the curriculum - or jeopardise their performance in the Department of Education tables.

“It is clear that there is a greater need than ever to inspire more young people to work in agriculture. Our concern is that a huge skills gap will open up if students are not given the opportunity to choose land-based studies."

Now ACRE, the national umbrella body for the 38 charitable organisations who make up the Rural Community Action Network, is backing a campaign by a Somerset school calling on the Government to change its mind.

Brymore School, in Cannington, argues that land-based studies are vital to the economy of the UK’s food and farming industry. It is urging supporters to sign its online petition and respond to the Department of Education’s consultation, before May 1.

Katherine Armstrong, chief executive of Community Council for Somerset, said: “It is essential that we encourage more young people to go into farming – the average age of farmers in the UK is 58. Almost 60% of farms in the UK are in the hands over the over-55s, with just 3% held by under-35s.

“Here in Somerset, we are seeing a dwindling number of youngsters working in the farming industry, which will have a long-term knock-on effect on the rural economy.

“It is clear that there is a greater need than ever to inspire more young people to work in agriculture. Our concern is that a huge skills gap will open up if students are not given the opportunity to choose land-based studies.

“By dropping these subjects from the league tables, the Government will just make a difficult situation even worse.

“I do not doubt that this picture is repeated in rural communities across England and I am urging our Network and rural communities to get behind this campaign and sign Brymore School’s petition.”

The petition can be found at, http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/uk-government-department-for-education-keep-land-based-studies-in-the-school-performance-tables-from-2015 while more information about the Government consultation can be found at brymoreschool.co.uk.