The Countryside Alliance has publicly backed calls for a new GCSE qualification in agriculture.

On Monday (July 2), the Royal Agricultural University hosted its second annual Teacher and Adviser Conference, with the Countryside Alliance's Liam Stokes as the keynote speaker.

Stokes used the address to call for greater collaboration between colleges, schools and universities to make land-based subjects available to all young people who might benefit from them.

Land-based education

Drawing on his experience of land-based education systems from all over the world, he told the conference that making this sort of learning an option for all students "would tap into the potential" of children who do not do well in traditional classroom environments, as well as boosting our land-based industries.

The event was supported by a partnership between the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), Applied Inspiration and the School Farms Network (SFN), and brought together teachers and advisers from across the country with a view to raising awareness of the educational and career opportunities in the land-based sector.

Stokes also argued that the only way to secure the future of the school farms that make land-based education possible was to introduce a GCSE Agriculture, he said: “Without a relevant GCSE contributing to performance tables and funding, school governors struggle to justify the expense of a farm.

"Introducing a GCSE Agriculture would provide learners with transferable skills and improve both their academic performance and their employability, but would also incentivise the maintenance and creation of school farms.

"These farms could then be woven into the whole curriculum, ensuring all young people can reap the benefits of land-based education.”

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to have a similar qualification, with GCSE Agriculture and Land Use available in some schools.

The course covers European legislation, consumer accountability and environmental concerns as well as plant and animal husbandry.