Monday, 20 July 2015

Post 16 Education -Traditional A Levels, or something a bit more modern?

If you're a parent of a 16 year old about to decide which path they'll be taking next September, how would you react if they told you they wanted to go to college to study Games, Animation and VFX Skills?

This year our 4th teenager has completed their GCSE's and is moving on to further education, and next year our 5th teenager will reach this point. But what comes next? Traditionally for students who do well at GCSE A Levels were always the next step, but this is a completely different world to the world of 1951 when A Levels were introduced, and education is beginning to change in an effort to try and keep up.

Post 16 Education -Traditional A Levels, or something a bit more modern?

When I left school it had always been expected I'd do A Levels, and I didn't give it a second thought. University didn't seem to be an option to me when I left College as I had a house and mortgage, and I went straight into a full time job which actually required no qualifications. In the 27 years since, the vocational qualifications I have gained after I became an adult have all proven far more useful to me, and gained me more work, than my years at College studying A Levels.

Traditional learning often just isn't as relevant as it used to be. Which is a better life skill for a 16 year old in 2015 - memorising case studies and dates, or being able to separate fact from fiction when you do a Google search?

Let Me Google That For You
Despite being near the top of the world league tables for literacy and numeracy, Finland have just announced huge reforms of their education system to better reflect the changes in modern society. No longer will the focus be only on individual subjects such as geography, instead young people will also learn through topics, covering several relevant subjects at the same time. I think they have a point, many traditional jobs have now gone or changed completely. Bank tellers, secretaries, printers, seamstresses, chefs and mechanics all need a different set of skills to those they needed 60 years ago. A bigger change though is the huge array of jobs that now exist, which couldn't even have been imagined 30 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago. The world has changed.

Photo Credit: Ubisoft Reflections/NextGen Skills Academy

The NextGen Skills Academy is a pioneering organisation, supported by investment from the government,and games,animation and VFX companies. Their aim is to bring education right up-to-date in the UK and keep young people towards the head of the pack, when it comes to developing careers in these sectors. For the first time this September they'll launch the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills. It has a title which I'm sure will strike fear into the heart of many a parent, but students will cover a range of subjects over the two years, as part of their vocational learning. While developing their games, animations and visual effects skills, they'll be studying maths, design, art and computer skills including coding. The qualification is equivalent to 3 A Levels, and is valid towards the points requirement for University entry. Not quite so scary as it might first appear to the parents...

Modern games animation and VFX skills diploma
Several big names have contributed  to the development of this qualification, including games companies Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Ubisoft Reflections and Microsoft. There has also been input from some of the biggest companies in VFX and animation, including Framestore, Double Negative and MPC. These employers are very keen to ensure that young people are learning the skills they need within their businesses, for the jobs that are available today.

The course has been written to replicate real-life work environments and students build a portfolio of work, which they will be able to use to demonstrate their skillsand experience whether they choose to move onto a degree course or take up an apprenticeship.  

Just like the Finnish Education System, one of the aims of NextGen Skills Academy is to teach students a range of skills which can work together in different ways, so that the student has a choice about what to specialise in after the course ends, whether they continue in education, or move into work. Students can go on to have careers working as artists, animators, programmers, and a plethora of other roles throughout the games, animation and VFX industries.

Photo Credit: Centroid 3D/NextGen Skills Academy
As well as the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills, NextGen Skills Academy is also working with a selection of industry partners, including Rebellion, Double Negative and Framestore, to develop 3 higher level apprenticeships which will be available later in 2015 - Quality Assurance Technician, Junior 3D Artist and Assistant Technical Director. Higher apprenticeships are work-based, with on-the-job training as well as studying.

The NextGen Skills Academy Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills course will be available at 4 colleges across England starting this September - North East Surrey College Of Technology (NESCOT), Sunderland College, Truro & Penwith College and Uxbridge College.

Visit NextGen skills Academy for further information.


I was asked by NextGen Skills Academy if I'd like to write this post, and I was paid for my time. 


  1. R is looking to start a similar course at Oxford College, in September.....
    The work that has been set as a preliminary assignment is already way over my head so thats me already lost.

    1. Hahaha - I did wonder actually! I do find myself lost more and more often - I used to know everything my kids were on about and now I don't have a clue far too often :D

  2. I completely agree that our current offerings in eduction just aren't relevant enough, and although I can't see either of mine doing this particular kind of thing I think I'd definitely be steering them towards something other than A-levels and a 4 year English degree if I felt it wasn't What they would enjoy or where they'd excel.


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