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BMet Tutor Fights Cause for Travel and Tourism FE Pathways, following Education Reforms

A passionate BMet Tutor is using his industry connections and insight to push forward the benefits of vocational travel and tourism courses, as they are set to be de-funded, as part of the Post-16 Education Reforms.

The Department for Education announced last year that Level 3 travel and tourism courses will no longer be funded after 2025, as the government looks to streamline the range of academic and technical qualifications available for the post-GCSE age group.

Since the announcement of the reforms, BMet Travel and Tourism lecturer John Garside, has been campaigning for vocational travel and tourism in further education (FE).

John’s activity to push the agenda for the thriving industry has included a range of initiatives like highlighting the cause via social media channels, lobbying MPs and writing articles for trade publications. All of which have received a lot of engagement.

Having enjoyed a rewarding career himself, John’s concern began when he realised that there were no routes to his much-loved subject area in the 2021 Post-16 Education Reform and that funding eligibility would be removed.

The focus on the Post 16 qualifications reform is that young people will choose either an ‘academic’ pathway or a ‘technical’ (T Levels) pathway. A Levels will form the core of the academic offer at Level 3. Vocational courses will continue to be available in some subject areas to be taken alongside or as alternatives to A levels, known as Alternative Academic qualifications (AAQs) – this would not apply to Travel and Tourism, as there is already an A-Level in the subject which has a low take up in the UK, as students prefer the vocational BTEC qualification.

This sparked John, who has been with the college for three years, to explore options to highlight the importance of travel and tourism in FE and challenge any attempts to diminish it.

He said: “It has been a shock to me that there are no T Levels or related FE courses in travel and tourism and aviation.

“I and many of my counterparts have a genuine love of the industry and knowledge of how related courses can be a real steppingstone for students to gain exciting and sustainable careers.”

“When I read this document, I was looking for the section that would outline the qualification that would replace the current BTEC options, but there was not one.  So effectively the conclusion is that Level 3 Travel and Tourism & Aviation (along with other qualifications) will simply disappear in 2026.”

BMet Tutor Fights Cause for Travel and Tourism FE Pathways, following Education Reforms            BMet Tutor Fights Cause for Travel and Tourism FE Pathways, following Education Reforms

Whilst making connections and researching the situation since it all began, John took a group of Level 3 students on a trip to Disneyland Paris for an annual Level 3 Seminar.

Inciteful talks about the future of the industry at the event and opportunities for students, spurred John to take action.

He added: “Whilst it was an excellent event on the way back, I reflected that the opportunities and a career in travel didn’t seem to align with the Department of Education’s strategy and plans for the course.

“I also remembered what a senior recruitment manager at one of the UK’s largest travel companies said – ‘We see Level 3 as our pipeline of staff.  If no one is coming onto your courses, no one coming through our doors.  We need to keep the diversity across the age group. We can’t afford to risk having a decline in younger people entering the profession.’

“The Level 3 student groups are important for recruitment in the industry which has been challenged since COVID. The event reaffirmed to me that I needed to take action.”

Here are some of John’s movements to support the cause:

  • Reconnecting with former colleague, Claire Steiner who is now the Director & Chair of Education and Training with the Institute of Travel & Tourism. This led to the very connected Claire, putting John in touch with industry publication, Travel Weekly – which sparked an article on the “defunding of courses” issue written by John, which was a cover and top story.
  • Having a tutorial with his students relating to the fact that educational bodies had started a petition in the face of government moves to scrap travel and tourism courses. The students couldn’t understand why this was happening and John encouraged them to sign the petition. They went further and began posting on social media, sending it to parents and getting them to sign.  Student involvement became key at this point.
  • During a visit to BMet’s Sutton Coldfield by Mr Andrew Mitchell MP, Level 3 Travel and Tourism students discussed with him their course and the current DofE plans to eliminate funding for the qualification, with no alternative replacement.  Andrew then offered to take a letter from BMet Principal, Pat Carvalho, to the Education Minister Gillian Keegan to explain the position and the need for the decision to be reviewed.
  • John and some of his students were interviewed by FE News. An article was then written about the impacts of defunding of Travel and Tourism courses.
  • John was the key spokesperson for BMet, who were part of the first education and skills working group. The group was established in response to the Department for Education’s update on its review of post-16 qualifications. The outcome was that a qualification needed to be established to suit the needs of students who want to pursue vocational groups, of which the group is devising a prototype for consultation.
  • John was a panelist at the ABTA conference, discussing the future of skills and education and the defunding of Level 3 qualifications to an industry audience. The session received very positive feedback and further media coverage – link: Minister demands ‘evidence’ of missing skills the industry needs | Travel Weekly

If this wasn’t enough, John has more planned activities to pursue in the future, in his crusade to highlight the significance of travel and tourism and aviation for students, employers and the industry, which include:

  • John being invited to become the FE Representative on the Association for Tourism in Higher Education Executive Committee in September.
  • John being invited to attend and facilitate a workshop about Further Education Perspectives at the following event – Progressing Policy for Tourism, Hospitality and Events Education University of West London: 18th October 2023.

John added: “I have been very lucky to have an amazing career in industry and work for some fantastic companies. I was also taught by some excellent leaders in travel and tourism when I was at university.  I want all my students to enjoy the same opportunities I had to work in the industry, visit wonderful places and to work with fabulous people.

“I came into education to inspire students to work in the industry. At BMet, I want us to be the best place to study Travel and Tourism and Aviation at Level 3.  We must ensure the offer we provide is high quality and leads to great opportunities in the industry or to HE.”

To find out more about travel and tourism courses offered at BMet’s Sutton Coldfield College, please visit BMet’s website.

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