A ‘T level’ qualification which could have provided access to college gamekeeping and wildlife management courses has been dropped from the syllabus and replaced with a ‘specialism’ described by experts as “woefully inadequate”.

Currently around 1,000 students are studying the Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate, Diploma and Extended Diploma in Land and Wildlife Management. The Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate is now no longer open to new entrants and it was expected that a similar qualification would be included in the Government’s new T level courses.

However, the latest list of T levels does not include a dedicated Land and Wildlife course. T levels were developed as an occupational equivalent to A levels for pupils aged 16-18 and include courses such as catering, accounting and agriculture. Instead of a Land and Wildlife course, an ‘occupational specialism’ called Habitat Management (Land and Water) will be included as in The Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care course.

Critically this specialism will not include practical wildlife management, wildlife management legislation, controlling invasive species, sporting estate management or competence with firearms.

The last enrolment date for the Diploma and Extended Diploma in Land and Wildlife Management is December 2023 (allowing two more academic years for new entrants.)

“Woefully inadequate”

In an open letter, BASC was joined by several of the country’s leading rural colleges as well timber industry body CONFOR and Welsh Government agency NRW in describing the course as “woefully inadequate for a significant proportion of students”. Curtis Mossop, BASC’s head of pathways into shooting and a former gamekeeping lecturer, said: “The replacement course offered within the new education structure lacks practical training in wildlife management and controlling invasive species. It is woefully inadequate for the thousands of jobs that require a more hands-on approach to conservation and management.

“The Department needs to urgently rectify the issue if they are going to succeed in their nature recovery programme.”

This leaves the ‘underkeeper apprenticeship’ as the main route into gamekeeping. However this apprenticeship is largely focused on a traditional gamekeeping role and does not provide a route into wider wildlife ranger and manager roles.